The Department of Public Service has released the final energy planning determination standards and recommendations called for in Act 174, the Energy Development Improvement Act. These standards will be used by the Department and Regional Planning Commissions to make determinations as to whether regional and municipal plans are consistent with state energy policy. Plans that receive an affirmative determination will receive substantial deference for their land conservation measures and specific policies when the Public Service Board considers orderly development in its review of siting applications. Act 174 details a set of planning requirements to receive a determination, including consistency with Vermont’s energy and climate goals and the inclusion of energy analysis across the building, transportation, and electrical sectors.
The standards consist of a checklist of required analyses, goals, and actions. The checklist approach is intended to enable municipal and regional planners to conduct planning with a determination of energy compliance in mind. Act 174 establishes three pathways for a plan to receive a determination of energy compliance:
1) regional plans will be evaluated by the Department;
2) once their region’s plan has received an affirmative determination, municipal plans will be evaluated by their regional planning commission; and
3) until July 1, 2018, a municipality in a region that has not received a determination may apply to the Department for evaluation.
The standards build upon regional energy planning work already underway at all Regional Planning Commissions under contract with the Department. Regions will furthermore be providing analyses and maps that will enable municipalities to easily meet the Analysis & Targets and Mapping standards. Regions will also conduct at least two trainings in each region, will each be offering in-depth technical assistance to at least three municipalities, and will be compiling best practice language from those efforts, which will aid future municipalities in meeting the Pathways standards.
The Department has also issued guidance documents for regions and municipalities to use as they write their plans, which offer standard-by-standard guidelines, resources, and potential language, and incorporate the Recommendations as excerpted from the 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan. The final standards and recommendations, along with an overview and regional and municipal guidelines, can be found here.
Efficiency Vermont is working with Vermont municipalities to encourage their residents to build more energy efficient homes. As part of this effort, we have prepared a new Municipal Guide to Vermont Energy Codes and Above-Code Programs, a resource provided by Efficiency Vermont and the Energy Code Assistance Center that provides background information on energy code requirements, explains the energy code process from application through documented compliance, and outlines the support available from Efficiency Vermont for builders and homeowners — both to simply meet the minimum requirements of the energy codes and to receive technical and financial assistance to exceed codes.
Zoning and planning officials are in a unique position to influence the long-term affordability and environmental impacts of the building that occurs within their town. They can do this by providing critical information to builders and home or business owners about how they can build to meet or exceed Vermont’s energy codes. This Municipal Guide to Vermont Energy Codes and Above-Code Programs will make it easier for municipalities to achieve this by providing clear and relevant information so that zoning and planning officials can easily respond to permit applicants.
Efficiency Vermont and the Energy Code Assistance Center have also prepared a Q&A piece, “Enhancing the Role of Vermont Municipalities in Improving Efficiency in New Construction”, that addresses specific municipal responsibilities associated with implementing energy code-related requirements under Act 89. For immediate support, builders, contractors and permit applicants can be referred to the Energy Code Assistance Center (ECAC) at 855.887-0673.
Presentation to Full Commission by Asa Hopkins, Director of Energy Policy and Planning, Public Service Department. January 13, 2016.
Addison County Regional Planning Commission | 14 Seminary Street Middlebury, VT 05753 | 802.388.3141 |