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 purpose and work of the VSPC.
The 2005 VT General Assembly enacted Act 61, 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 provisions 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.
- 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.”
The VSPC was created by a settlement agreement approved by the Public Utility Commission in a June 20, 2007, Order in its investigation of least-cost integrated resource planning for Vermont Electric Power Company, Inc.'s transmission system (Docket 7081). Both the Commission's Order and the settlement agreement contain additional information about the new transmission planning process and the VSPC's role and responsibilities. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has also been amended in subsequent Commission proceedings.
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)
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.
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.