Bill would require utilities to use renewable energy

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(Host) Renewable energy got a boost in the Vermont Senate on Thursday when a bill promoting alternative sources of electricity was approved. The bill passed overwhelmingly, despite concerns raised by some senators that it could impose additional costs on businesses and consumers.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The Senate bill goes farther than similar legislation in the House. The bill says the Public Service Board can require utilities to get 1% of their energy from renewable sources like wind or solar power by 2004. The requirement goes up to 3% in 2006. But in the House version, the Legislature must approve the requirement before it goes into effect.

Much of the Senate debate focused on the potential cost of the renewable requirement. Senator Julius Canns (R-Caledonia County) tried to remove the mandate from the bill. Canns says he’s worried about the burden it could place on business. He says IBM, the state’s largest private employer, doesn’t support the mandate.

(Canns) “I tell the senators, Mr. President, that I listen to the people who provide the jobs. And I listen very seriously to them, because I don’t feel we’re under any pressure to mandate this.”

(Dillon) Advocates of the renewable standard say it’s a small step to boost the industry. They say many alternative energy companies are based in Vermont, and they could benefit if utilities had to buy a small percentage of their power from wind, solar or other clean energy sources. Senator Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden County) says the cost of renewable energy is steadily decreasing.

(Lyons) “As we continue to follow through with the production of energy in the state from renewable sources, our costs go down. That will only benefit our homes, our residences. It will only benefit our businesses.”

(Dillon) Although the bill passed overwhelmingly, Governor Jim Douglas says he doesn’t support legislation to force utilities to buy renewable energy.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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