Who's who in Vermont's electric system
Vermont's electric distribution companies
Seventeen electric distribution utilities serve Vermonters, ranging in size from the Village of Orleans Electric Department with about 700 customers, to Green Mountain Power, with about 256,000 customers. Vermont has one investor-owned utility (Green Mountain Power), two cooperatives (Vermont Electric Cooperative and Washington Electric Cooperative) and 14 municipal electric utilities.
Vermont's electric utilities are regulated monopolies that operate under a "certificate of public good" granted by the Vermont Public Utility Commission. As regulated companies, their rates and policies are subject to review by the Vermont Public Service Department and approval by the Public Utility Commission.
VELCO, Vermont's transmission grid operator
Vermont's power grid is operated by the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO). VELCO was organized in 1956 to develop an integrated transmission system to interconnect the numerous electric utilities and provide them with access to power from the St. Lawrence River project. Currently its transmission system consists of 738 miles of transmission lines, 55 substations, and a 200-megawatt back-to-back High Voltage Direct Current Converter. VELCO is a regulated utility, owned and controlled in various percentages by the state's utilities and the Vermont Low-Income Trust for Electricity (VLITE). VELCO operates Vermont's bulk transmission system and represents the utilities in power pool matters with the New England regional transmission organization, ISO-New England. In cooperation with ISO-NE, VELCO also performs and directs planning, design, and construction on the Vermont bulk power transmission system as part of the regional grid.
ISO-New England, New England's Regional Transmission Organization
ISO-New England (ISO-NE) is designated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the Regional Transmission Organization that manages the New England region's bulk power generation and transmission system and the region's open access transmission tariff. ISO New England carries out its mission in three ways: by ensuring the day-to-day reliable operation of New England's bulk power generation and transmission system, by overseeing and ensuring the fair administration of the region's wholesale electricity markets, and by managing comprehensive, regional planning processes.
In 1999, the Vermont Public Utility Commission, based on recommendations of the Public Service Department and a settlement with Vermont utilities, created the nation's first statewide efficiency utility (EEU). Efficiency Vermont was established as the statewide EEU, administered by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC), under a contract with the Public Utility Commission. Burlington Electric Department is also designated as the EEU for its service territory. The EEUs’ purpose is to support targeted energy efficiency programs that reduce the electricity usage of businesses and individuals. The programs the EEU provides were formerly the responsibility of individual utilities. In 2010, the regulatory model for the EEUs was modified to an "order of appointment" to more closely resemble the regulation of distribution utilities. For more information on historical proceedings related to the EEUs, visit the Commission's energy efficiency page.
Vermont Public Power Supply Authority (VPPSA)
To address the particular needs of Vermont's smaller publicly owned utilities, the Vermont Public Power Supply (VPPSA) was created by Vermont law to pool resources and obtain economies of scale for operations, planning, financing, wholesale power transactions, and other aspects of the utility business. VPPSA also has authority to buy and sell wholesale power and to issue tax-free debt on behalf of municipal and cooperative utilities in Vermont. Its membership includes 12 of the state’s 14 municipal utilities.
Vermont Public Utility Commission
The Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) is a quasi-judicial board that supervises the rates, quality of service, and overall financial management of Vermont's public utilities: cable television, electric, gas, telecommunications, water and large wastewater companies.
Vermont Public Service Department
The Vermont Public Service Department (PSD) is the agency within the executive branch of Vermont state government that is charged with representing the public interest in energy, telecommunications, water and wastewater utility matters.
VLITE: Vermont Low-Income Trust for Electricity
VLITE was created in connection with the purchase of Central Vermont Public Service by GazMétro and the merger of CVPS and Green Mountain Power into one company in 2012. The transaction included a Memorandum of Understanding that defined the inclusion of VLITE as a component of the merger approval.
In the merger, a portion of shares in VELCO (~27%) were transferred to VLITE, which uses its dividend income from VELCO — estimated at $1 million per year — to fund projects and initiatives that serve low income Vermonters and further energy policies that address Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan. In addition, VLITE has the power to nominate three independent directors to serve on VELCO’s board of directors.
VLITE itself is governed by a board of directors. The board is drawn from representatives of energy policy interest groups, consumer and low-income advocates, public power utility sectors and members of the Governor’s administration.
VEPP Inc: Vermont Independent Power Generators and Qualifying Facilities
VEPP Inc. is the Purchasing Agent appointed by Board Rule 4.100 of the Vermont Public Service Board to manage the purchase of power from Vermont's Independent Power Producers, or IPPs. Vermont Electric Power Producers Inc (VEPP Inc.) purchases electric power from these renewable resources. They currently include 15 hydro-electric generating stations all located in Vermont. Power is then sold to all 17 Vermont utilities on a pro-rata basis to their in-state retail sales.
SPEED: Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development
In 2005, the Vermont General Assembly established the SPEED Program to encourage the development of renewable energy resources in Vermont as well as the purchase of renewable power by the state’s electric distribution utilities. In 2009 the legislature modified the SPEED Program, creating the SPEED Standard Offer Program, one of the nation's first feed-in-tariff programs. The SPEED Standard Offer Program encourages the development of distributed renewable resources by making long-term contracts at fixed prices available to qualified renewable energy facilities. In 2012, the legislature expanded the capacity of the Standard Offer Program up to 127.5 MW over the next ten years and mandated use of a market-based mechanism to determine pricing for Standard Offer Projects. Annual program capacity is now filled through a Request for Proposal process.
Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund
In 2005, the Vermont General Assembly established the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (CEDF) through Act 74 (30 V.S.A. § 8015). The purpose of the Fund is to increase the development and deployment of cost-effective and environmentally sustainable electric power resources – primarily with respect to renewable energy resources, and the use of combined heat and power technologies - in Vermont. The Clean Energy Development Board (CEDB) is charged with approving the Clean Energy Development Fund's (CEDF) annual plan, budget, program design, and strategic plan. The Public Service Department is responsible for the day-to-day decisions of the CEDF.
Entergy Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant
Entergy Vermont Yankee is a 650 MW nuclear power plan located in Vernon, Vermont. The plant began commercial operation in November 1972, and supplies power to Vermont and the New England grid. Entergy Corporation, the plant's owner, has announced its intention to cease power production after its current fuel cycle and move to safe shutdown in the fourth quarter of 2014. ISO-NE has taken VY's closure into account in the current cycle of planning for reliability on the New England grid.