Established in 2009, pursuant to 30 V.S.A. § 8005a, the standard-offer program promotes the rapid deployment of small renewable generation. The Commission has implemented the program through previous Orders in Dockets 7523, 7533, 7780, 7873, 7874, and 8817, Case No. 17-3935-INV, Case No. 18-2820-INV, and Case No. 19-4466-INV.
Under the program, Vermont distribution utilities are required to buy renewable power from an eligible generator at a specified price for a specified period of time. Program costs are distributed among Vermont utilities based on their pro-rata share of electric sales. The program is administered by a statewide purchasing agent (“Standard Offer Facilitator”) appointed by the Commission.
The standard-offer program was created with a 50 MW initial program capacity that was expanded to 127.5 MW in 2012. Eligible projects can be no larger than 2.2 MW in size and include the following technologies: solar; wind with a capacity of 100 kW or smaller (“small wind”); wind with a capacity greater than 100 kW up to 2.2 MW (“large wind”); farm methane; landfill methane; food waste anaerobic digestion; biomass; and hydroelectric. Eligible projects selected through a lottery received a standard-offer contract, and the contract price was based on technology-specific avoided costs.
In 2012, statutory changes were made to the program that included an increase in the available program capacity, distributed annually as follows: 5 MW in 2013-2015; 7.5 MW in 2016-2018; and 10 MW available in 2019-2022. A specific portion of each year’s capacity is reserved for projects proposed by Vermont utilities and is referred to as the Provider Block, with the remainder referred to as the Developer Block. The 2012 changes also: (a) require allocation of available capacity among different technology categories; (b) allow market-based pricing methodology; and (c) require review of avoided-cost prices every year.
Since 2013, the Commission has issued an annual request for proposals (“RFP”) to fill the available annual capacity under the program. Issued by the Standard Offer Facilitator, the annual RFP specifies annual program capacity, technology allocations, and avoided-cost price caps. Under the RFP, lowest-priced bids are awarded annual capacity. Farm methane projects remain outside the program cap (i.e., no restrictions on the number of projects that can participate in the program) and therefore do not have to participate in the annual RFP.
Pursuant to 30 V.S.A. § 8005a(p)(3)(B), the Commission is also required to annually establish the standard-offer price for existing hydroelectric with a nameplate capacity of 5 MW or less.
The Vermont Standard Offer Facilitator maintains a website that includes annual RFPs for the standard-offer program, as well as other information concerning the program.