At a time when some forecasts for the future of electrical utilities see gloom—volatile fossil fuel prices hiking rates and killing profits while customers wean themselves from the grid in favor of renewables, distributed storage, and smart micro grids—it’s no surprise that some of the 3300 electric utilities in the United States have dug in their heels. Florida’s top electrical utilities, for instance, have reportedly strongly resisted the rise of solar power in the sun-drenched state.
Yet a few utilities are actively bucking the industry trend of rising rates and resistance to clean energy. In 2014 alone, for instance, Vermont’s top electric provider, Green Mountain Power (GMP), has announced a 2.46-percent rate cut while also receiving the advocacy group Vote Solar’s 2014 Solar Champion award—the only utility to be so honored.
GMP has made Rutland, Vt., its pilot city [PDF] for promoting solar power, promising at least 6 megawatts of installed solar power by 2017, starting with a single 150-kilowatt farm. It’s also developed a pilot “eHome” in the same city, combining solar with smart home metering and high-efficiency installments like air-source heat pumps and a monitor app for their mobile phone. Statewide, GMP has pushed for increased net-metering, a scheme under which solar-powered homes sell excess electricity back to the grid. And the utility has also opened the state’s largest wind farm, with 21 turbines generating 63 megawatts capacity, alongside its 32 old-school hydropower generators.