In 2016, the VSPC recognized the need to review its purpose in light of many changes underway in the electric grid. The result of that process was the adoption of a Charter to update and more simply articulate the purposes and work of the VSPC.
The following sections provide a guide to the law, Public Utility Commission orders and other documents that serve as the basis for the VSPC process and Vermont’s approach to transmission planning.
Vermont Law—Title 30, Subsection 218c Requires Long-Range Transmission Planning
The 2005 Vermont General Assembly enacted Act 61, entitled, An Act Relating to Renewable Energy, Efficiency, Transmission and Vermont’s Energy Future. The legislation addresses many energy-related topics. Among them: an amendment to the utility least-cost integrated planning section that requires VELCO to prepare a long-range electric transmission plan and to update it every three years.
The long-range transmission planning provision forms Title 30 of the Vermont Statutes, Subsection 218c, paragraph (d)
- Long-range plan looking out at least ten years and updated every three years.
The objective of the plan shall be to identify the potential need for transmission system improvements as early as possible, in order to allow sufficient time to plan and implement more cost-effective nontransmission alternatives to meet reliability needs, wherever feasible.
- Prescribes contents of plan.
- At least two public meetings before VELCO finalizes the plan and defines notice and process for the meetings.
- Coordination with distribution utilities.
- Public Utility Commission and Public Service Department to “encourage and facilitate the resolution of reliability deficiencies through nontransmission alternatives, where those alternatives would better serve the public good.”
Public Utility Commission orders establishing the VSPC process
- Final order in Docket 7081, approving the Memorandum of Understanding among the parties establishing the VSPC and associated process, issued 6/20/2007.
- Public Utility Commission Docket 7081 information page
Docket 7081 Memorandum of Understanding
The Docket 7081 Memorandum of Understanding, signed by most of the parties and establishing the VSPC and associated planning process, was filed with the Commission on September 6, 2006. The MOU has since been amended multiple times and amendments have been approved by the Commission. Click to download the current version of the MOU.
Procedural rules of the VSPC
- Procedures of the VSPC as amended 6/10/08.
- Protocol for handling confidential or allegedly confidential information
The cornerstone of the VSPC/Docket 7081 process, as well as a key Vermont public policy, is that each identified reliability issue on the electric grid must be screened to determine whether a potential exists to resolve the issue with some configuration of energy efficiency, demand response and generation, or a hybrid of transmission and non-transmission solutions. If a potential exists, the affected utilities then conduct a full analysis to determine whether some configuration of alternatives is cost effective. Two different tools have been developed to screen issues for their potential to be addressed with non-transmission alternatives or NTAs.
- Docket 7081/VSPC Non-Transmission Alternatives Screening (for transmission and sub-transmission issues)
- Docket 6290 screening tool (for distribution and sub-transmission issues)
Geographic Targeting of Non-Transmission Alternatives
Programs are in place in Vermont to geographically target both energy efficiency and distributed generation where these resources have the potential to address a reliability issue more cost-effectively than building transmission. Planning for the optimal mix of these resources is a complex task that involves multiple stakeholders. In 2013, the Public Utility Commission implemented a Screening Framework in Docket 7873 (Programmatic Changes to the Standard Offer Program). The purpose of the Screening Framework is to analyze reliability constraints on the transmission and subtransmission system to determine where installing additional generation may provide sufficient benefit to reduce or eliminate the constraint without a poles-and-wires solution. The Screening Framework was revised in 2014 to incorporate a framework for screening distribution constraints as well.
- Revised Screening Framework & Guidelines (on the Public Utility Commission website, 2/20/2014)
Because of the complexity of the considering both supply-side and demand-side solutions, the VSPC has developed a process map to assist stakeholders in understanding and participating in steps in geographical targeting.