BRATTLEBORO—The Windham Regional Energy Plan was adopted as an amendment to the Windham Regional Plan on April 24, during a meeting of the Windham Regional Commission.
“This concludes our regional energy planning process that began in July 2016. We wish to extend our gratitude to everyone who participated in this effort,” Chair Jodi French said in a news release.
The complete adopted plan is available online at www.windhamregional.org/energy/act-174-energy-planning.
Per statute, the regional energy plan will be considered duly adopted and will take effect 35 days after the date of adoption, unless a majority of selectboards of the towns in the region veto the proposed plan.
The regional energy plan has been submitted to the Department of Public Service for a Determination of Energy Compliance.
With an affirmative determination, the Commission will be able to review town-plan enhanced energy elements for energy compliance. This designation gives town plans “substantial deference” in Public Utilities Commission proceedings related to the review of renewable energy projects.
The Energy Plan analyzes current and projected energy uses to meet the state goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050, analyzes energy-generation potential through mapping, and identifies pathways and policies to meet goals.
The Commission will pursue implementing the plan by continuing its support for renewable-energy development and energy conservation and efficiency programs. The commission has a strong background in implementing energy initiatives with both current and completed programs focused on these areas. These programs include:
• The Windham Wood Heat Initiative has been helping municipal, school, and nonprofit buildings convert to modern wood heating systems for the past three years in Windham County.
Through the program, 22 buildings/campuses now have comprehensive audit reports of their buildings, nine have installed new systems, three district heating systems are in the works, four systems have received upgrades to improve performance, and eight of the buildings have implemented energy conservation measures to increase energy efficiency.
In the conversion of these heating systems to advanced wood heat, the buildings have steady, reliable fuel pricing and are sourced with local, renewable fuels, which supports the local forestry economy.
• The Windham County Renewable Energy Grant Program has had two rounds of grant funding supporting 10 renewable energy installation projects in Windham County.
The projects include a diverse group of technologies including a food waste anaerobic digester, biomass combined heat and power generation, rooftop solar, and ground-mounted solar arrays coupled with agriculture.
Funding for both programs came through the Clean Energy Development Fund, and specifically funding set aside for use in Windham County through the settlement agreement between the state and Entergy Vermont Yankee.
The WRC says it intends to be proactive in renewable energy education and outreach.
Initiatives include the SunShot solar energy development training held in 2013 in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy, the International City/County Management Association, and adjoining regional commissions, and the Basketville Biomass Combined Heat and Power research project organized by the WRC and conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory through the RE-Powering America’s Land initiative.
The WRC says it will also continue to promote energy efficiency, weatherization, and other means by which the consumption of energy can be reduced, and it will support initiatives to switch from non-renewable to renewable energy sources.
“With the adoption of this Energy Plan, the WRC is committing to the local green economy, to advancing efficiency, and to supporting the Region towns in pursuing their energy targets. This is an important step towards resilience in energy and reducing emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Windham Regional Planner Marion Major.