Vermont Enacts Registration Program for Small Solar Installations

Vermont has enacted a first-in-the-nation registration process for small solar systems, providing a national model for mitigating costly local solar permitting.

H.56, signed into law by Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin May 25, establishes a registration process for solar systems 5kW and smaller. 

The process, which replaces permitting, allows solar customers to install the system 10 days after completing a registration form and certificate of compliance with interconnection requirements.  The utility has 10 days to raise any interconnection issues, otherwise a Certificate of Public Good is granted and project may be installed.

A recent study earlier this year produced by SunRun found that permitting adds an average cost of $2,500 to each solar installation and that streamlining the often cumbersome process would provide a $1 billion stimulus to the solar industry over the next five years.

The report finds that the additional installation cost is due to wide permitting variations in excessive fees and an unnecessarily slow process.  The report cites that Germany has a 40 percent installation price advantage over the United States.  Vermont already has a much more cost-effective, free statewide permitting process than most states.

Mark Sinclair, executive director of Clean Energy States Alliance, said "Solar registration is an innovative way to address the high costs and long timeframes that are often associated with installing small-scale renewable energy systems."

The registration process will go into effect January 2012.

Vermont's legislation also expands the state's successful net metering program by establishing a statewide solar customer benefit, which gives solar a minimum value of $0.20, increasing the allowable size of net metering projects from 250kW to 500kW, increasing the per utility net metering cap from 2 percent to 4 percent, and improving group net metering billing.

"Vermont has lead the way in creating an installation environment that encourages solar development by reducing permitting time and resources.  This continues that leadership," said Martha Staskus, chair of Renewable Energy Vermont, the state's renewable trade association.

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