Howard Weiss-Tisman, Vermont Public Radio
The Public Utility Commission says Burlington would not need a state permit to operate a district heating system that uses steam and heat from the McNeil Plant. Credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory / Associated Press
If Burlington is ever able to get its district heating proposal off the ground, the state would not have the authority to regulate the system.
The Public Utility Commission this week effectively ruled against itself, saying that the commission doesn’t have jurisdiction over the proposed heating service.
Burlington has been trying to use the excess heat from the Joseph C. McNeil Generating Station since it first went online in 1984. The biomass plant uses steam to produce energy, but most of the heat is lost during the electric generation.
It would be expensive and complicated to transfer that heat throughout the city, and even though there’s been support for the proposal, the plan has never gotten off the ground.
Still there’s been a question over whether the district heating system would be regulated by the state and if it would require a certificate of public good.