Articles filed under Energy Policy from Vermont
After part of a cooling tower collapsed last August at Vermont's only nuclear power plant, the company that runs it blamed rotting wooden timbers that it had failed to inspect properly. The uproar that followed rekindled environmental groups' hopes of shutting down the aging plant. The proposed closing, albeit a long shot, has gained some support this year among Vermont politicians. The discussion here is bringing into sharp relief a conflict between two objectives long held by environmental advocates: combating nuclear power and stopping global warming. ...[M]any advocacy groups dream of achieving a nuclear-free mix burnished by local renewables. ...But utilities in Vermont, like their counterparts elsewhere in the country, argue that environmental advocates are mistaken if they believe a low-emission future can be achieved without nuclear power. They note the intermittency of power sources like windmills and solar panels, and argue that the nation needs more, not fewer, big power plants that emit no carbon dioxide.
The Douglas administration released a draft plan Tuesday to help shape Vermont's energy future. Critics immediately lambasted the 267-page document as inadequate to reduce the state's dependence on petroleum, to increase energy efficiency or to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, drafted by the state Public Service Department, calls for continued reliance on electricity from Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee while utilities find more diverse, preferably in-state, sources of renewable power.
The [New England] region's power system has had a long history of dependability, but electricity costs have been an issue for businesses and residents for decades. As the region plans ahead, New England's policymakers face a series of decisions that will have an abiding impact on our energy future. ...Economic, reliability and environmental goals are not always perfectly aligned when it comes to electricity generation and transmission. Whatever path policymakers choose to take will require trade-offs. How New England officials balance these sometimes conflicting goals will demonstrate our priorities, impact the regional economy and determine which objectives we can realistically achieve.
State and regional regulators acknowledge the hurdles - especially in northern New Hampshire - but don't have ready solutions. A bill before the New Hampshire Senate would have the state be ready to act if no regional solution is forthcoming. ISO New England, which manages power for the region, is considering changing rules so more of the costs of transmission upgrades could be shared regionally. But as things stand now, backers of projects generally must pay for upgrades needed to connect them to the system. "None of this is a real speedy process," acknowledges Michael Harrington, senior regional policy adviser for the state Public Utilities Commission.
Ridge Protectors, a group fiercely opposed to industrial wind power on Vermont's ridge lines, has launched a letter-writing appeal to Gov. Jim Douglas, who they hope will veto S.209, the so-called Energy Efficiency and Affordability Act. The bill, which is aimed at promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency, has passed both the House and Senate, and is on the governor's desk. The letter-writing campaign is a last-ditch attempt to change a part of the measure that gives industrial wind power a tax break at the expense of the education fund, said Paul Brouha of Sutton.
The bill contains a break on property taxes for wind power developers, calls for an expansion of "net metering," in which people who make power with solar or small wind generators can sell some of it back to their utility and sets a goal of producing 25 percent of the state's energy from in-state, renewable sources by 2025. It also takes other steps to promote energy independence. But its centerpiece is a new effort to help Vermonters tighten up homes and other buildings. A study done for the state Department of Public Service determined that $480 million could be saved in Vermont over the next 10 years by adding insulation, replacing drafty windows and other "building shell" improvements alone.
The state, through a series of workshops, is enlisting opinions for shaping choices of electricity sources. Opinions should not shape policy. Educated, thoughtful planning and research should be operative. Jane and John Q. Public are not qualified to shape policy on such a complex matter. Nor are state-level planners, it would seem, since they are the ones who are asking, "What shall we do?" ...I've also heard that the workshop materials are biased toward wind power, citing exaggerated benefits and unrealistic capacity factors. ...The cost of these useless, wasteful workshops and "deliberative polling" ($500,000) is being passed on to each and every one of us. I want my money back.
The state is part way through its half-million-dollar effort to gauge Vermonters' opinion on how electricity should be generated. Three of five polling workshops have been held -- and a more elaborate process, called "deliberative polling," which aims to tap the knowledge of a broad cross-section of the state's population, will be held this weekend. ...Vermont's energy mix has given the state the lowest "carbon footprint" in the nation, according to O'Brien. ...Generally speaking, energy efficiency and hydro-electricity are heavily supported, Raab said. Wind is also "pretty well" supported; people who live in Burlington and Montpelier, however, are typically more likely to tolerate a wind farm that can be seen from their home than people who live in the Northeast Kingdom, he said. ... Since anyone can register online to attend the workshops, the participants are self-selected and often come to advocate for or against a particular type of power
In the ongoing debate about Vermont Yankee's role in the state's energy future, those for and against the continued operation of the nuclear power plant have something to prove. Nuclear energy opponents must come up with a reliable and affordable alternative to the power Vermont Yankee supplies. ...Yet no one has come up with a reasonable alternative for the reliable power provided by Vermont Yankee. Conservation and efficiency efforts are insufficient to reduce the state's energy demand by a third within five years. Nor can Vermont develop wind and solar capacity to provide the base load power to make up for Vermont Yankee's output. Powering down Vermont's economy is not an option, nor is a dramatic increase in electricity rates.
While paper mills close and Cabletron spins off its remnants out of state, power plants from the Seacoast to Whitefield enjoy the perks of a poorly understood, $100-million subsidy program just for energy producers. It has a bureaucratic name: the forward capacity market. ...An unidentified 600-megawatt, gas-fired power plant project somewhere in Rockingham County is blocked behind half a dozen North Country renewable energy projects in the ISO-New England regulatory queue. The waiting list policy is first-come, first-served. A plant like that would typically pay its host community $4 million or more in property taxes, with few smokestack emissions. But those wind- and wood-fired projects at the front of the line are all in limbo. The Public Service power lines in the region are too small. Most of the players can't even bid into the upcoming ISO auction, because yet-to-be-built plants have to ante millions of dollars as a sort of performance bond. And the ISO doesn't make forward capacity payments for transmission line upgrades.
The commission charged with finding how the state should reduce its contribution to global climate change - and profit from concerns worldwide about the issue - released its final report Friday calling for more energy efficiency, renewable energy development and the creation of an alliance between the state, nonprofit groups and Vermont's colleges and universities. ...Crombie said all recommendations and possibilities will be considered. But that does not necessarily mean Douglas will change his mind about large wind turbines on the state's ridgelines or bend to the Legislature's proposal of last year. "The governor's position is that we have to be careful about how we approach wind," Crombie said, adding that such wind projects may have other effects on the state - including impacts on the economy and recreation. "We may find that in Vermont we are using a lot of renewable energy already," Crombie said. "Already Vermont is one of the greenest economies in the United States."
When this year's renewable energy conference got under way in Burlington on Wednesday there were, by some estimates, as many as 500 people at the event. Gov. James Douglas was not among them. "I was disappointed to not be invited," Douglas said Thursday. Douglas has been at the gathering of advocates, manufacturers and politicians involved in renewable power in the past - it is the sixth year of the conference. But this year other political leaders were invited and Douglas' name didn't come up, said Andrew Perchlik, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont. It was not an intentional decision made because of Douglas' outspoken opposition to wind, he said.
Small-scale energy production and efficiency measures could create more than 6,000 jobs in Vermont, according to a study released Tuesday by the Vermont Council on Rural Development.
Recently, the Public Service Board made history. With the stroke of a pen, three men reversed a century of work by Vermont citizens to preserve this state's historic landscape. Chairman James Volz, David Cohen, and John Burke opened the door to the largest industrial ridgeline development project in our state's history. Unfortunately, this will become their legacy.
MONTPELIER, Vt. --Gov. Jim Douglas on Thursday said he was "disappointed" with the Public Service Board's approval a day earlier of a 16-turbine wind power project planned for the northeastern Vermont town of Sheffield. "I don't think industrializing our ridge lines is the right thing to do for the natural beauty of our state," the governor said at a news conference. "I don't think the modest amount of electricity that will be generated from wind turbines is worth the impairment of our ridge lines. "But I also respect the law," and the quasi-judicial board's role under it in making determinations about utility projects, the governor said, though he added he expected the ruling might be appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court.
Vermont Yankee is also a valuable and vitally important resource that should not be wasted. Unlike wind power, Vermont Yankee provides low cost, round-the-clock generation that, when combined with the Hydro Quebec contracts, gives Vermont one of the lowest carbon footprints in the country. Vermont and Entergy Nuclear, the owner of Vermont Yankee, should work together to jointly develop Vermont's future energy plan. The ongoing political battle between the Entergy and Vermont helps no one.
Anticipating the need to replace the supply of about two-thirds of the state's electricity, 200 Vermonters will sequester themselves in a hotel for a weekend in early November to study energy options and consider how to balance Vermont's energy portfolio for the next generation. Energy discussions - whether considering wind, nuclear, or hydroelectric power - attract crowds of special-interest groups and political activists. The competing rhetoric can be overwhelming. The goal of the $500,000-plus worth of studies - the largest energy sampling ever conducted in the United States - is to cut through the slogans and give policymakers a fresh look at how Vermonters envision the state's energy future, said Stephen Wark, the Department of Public Service's consumer affairs director. Vermonters will pay for the bulk of the studies, through rate charges on utility bills and state tax dollars. "We are looking for mainstream Vermonters, not advocates," Wark said. "What we are looking for is people with an open mind, people that are willing to learn and share their opinions with us."
MONTPELIER -- Democrats came up 12 votes short of overriding the governor's veto of an energy bill in the House on Wednesday, then couldn't quite pull off an effort to resurrect the bulk of the bill. Together with a failed veto override of a campaign finance bill it meant two political victories for Republican Gov. Jim Douglas over the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Democrats weren't casting it that way. "It's a huge loss for Vermonters," said Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin, D-Windham. He said legislators succeeded in raising awareness about global warming and that the veto proved Douglas is out of touch with Vermonters on the issue. Douglas disagreed. "Some of the rhetoric has been noisy but devoid of fact," he said. His work on establishing tough auto and greenhouse gas emission standards shows his dedication to the issue, he said. Douglas also said he would meet today with his cabinet to begin implementing parts of the bill.
Legislators in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic passed a number of bills applying to the electric power industry, with several states committing to emissions reductions through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and other states making broad organizational changes to their regulatory processes.
Unfortunately, the most important issue at hand has been conspicuously glossed over in these debates. Our immediate need is to begin securing baseload power sources, which will provide economical electricity 24 hours per day, 365 days each year after the current agreements with Vermont Yankee and Hydro-Quebec expire. Make no mistake, all Vermonters need to find opportunities within their own homes and businesses to switch to more energy efficient technology and reduce consumption by adopting conservation practices for all energy usage. Additionally, where economically viable without massive government subsidies, all in-state renewable energy sources should be developed. Local sources tend to be more reliable, provide greater economic benefits and facilitate fuel and supply source diversity. But, renewables, (excluding large hydro), efficiency and conservation will never to be able to meet fully Vermont's electrical energy needs. Nor do they eliminate the need for baseload supply.