Library filed under Energy Policy from Vermont
Despite all the lofty talk of saving the world from global warming, these renewable energy projects have always been about the money. Throw up a bunch of renewable energy projects, hustle the tax credits and subsidies, and charge ratepayers exorbitant fees for intermittent power. Communities and mountains be damned.
The Caledonia County Democratic Committee recently passed a resolution seeking to have the State Democratic Committee call on the Vermont State Legislature and Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin to re-evaluate the state's energy policy and, in particular, protect areas of high elevation from wind development projects.
Horn said she is not suggesting that towns have veto power over the board’s decisions, but she does want the statute’s language changed to give towns an effective voice in the process. Communities have become concerned over the permitting process because of the impact some energy generation projects, such as the 21-turbine wind project on Lowell Mountain, have on the surrounding landscape.
Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington and chairman of the Senate panel, cited the example of a man who told him he was trying to establish an organic vegetable farm in Addison County between a Vermont Electric Power Co. high-voltage power line and the route of a natural gas pipeline Vermont Gas Systems is proposing. Like many property owners affected by such projects but who can't afford to hire lawyers to represent them before the state Public Service Board ...He's nowhere" in terms of having an adequate voice in the process.
Guy Page is communications director for the Vermont Energy Partnership, said most Vermonters don't realize the scale of change to the landscape that's required to achieve just a 5 percent increase for in-state renewable sources. More mountain top wind projects - such as those that have stirred controversy in Sheffield and Lowell - would be needed to reach the goal, Page said.
For more than a year, small-town residents who oppose energy projects - like the Lowell Mountain wind site, the proposed Vermont Gas Systems pipeline in Addison County and other projects - have been clamoring to make the Public Service Board process more citizen-friendly.
Vermont's largest electric utility knew the limits of its Lowell Mountain wind project and that it would be asked to keep electricity generated there off the grid from time to time, the head of New England's electric grid wrote in a letter to Gov. Peter Shumlin.
Many people realize that the grid operator had good reasons not to dispatch the wind power during the heat wave. ...The turbine owners have developed a serious case of entitlement. If the wind turbine doesn't get dispatched, someone is going to hear about it from the Governor.
That is what's happening in the northern Vermont grid. The transmission load, or appetite for power, in the region is roughly 120 mW, while the generators in that region can produce about 420 mW, according to a Public Service Department white paper submitted to energy legislators Thursday.
Discussion Thursday reflected the strong support among House members for renewable energy, especially wind power, and the more sympathetic posture among senators to critics who say the process for siting wind turbines needs big improvements. Legislation introduced on the Senate side originally called for a moratorium on new wind-power development.
"Overall, I can say with some confidence that we have addressed the issues we consistently heard from the public and the industry developers alike -- that our current process is too complicated, too expensive, too slow, not transparent enough and not sensitive enough to cultural and environmental considerations," he said.
On Friday, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee agreed to the House's pared-down version of what was originally a bill regulating large wind turbine projects, including a three-year moratorium. But although Senate bill 30 is moving forward without any controls on energy siting, some key provisions are still on the table.
On Tuesday, the Vermont Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission submitted its final report and recommendations to the governor and the Vermont Legislature. The commission recommends a revision of the Section 248 permitting process.
It would be too bad if a project had local support but a moratorium quashed it. It would also be too bad if a project were universally despised in its host communities but a town's lack of standing in the process did not allow the PSB to take into account local views. ...Even boosters such as Shumlin say they don't want to cram any projects down townspeople's throats. The Legislature ought to be looking for ways that towns can be empowered to prevent that from happening.
Advocates of the temporary ban say a compromise package being voted out of a House committee this week could at least bring more scrutiny of the regulatory process that governs ridgeline wind projects. ...Sen. Robert Hartwell, a Bennington County Democrat and lead sponsor of the original moratorium language, said he believes those summer hearings will yield legislation next year that will amplify citizens' voices in the regulatory process.
The latest round of draft recommendations from the Governor's Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission would not force a town like Newark or Brighton to find a place for big wind turbines, unlike a previous draft. Instead, the draft recommendations now say that towns can reject one form of renewable technology as long as the towns promote alternative renewable energy projects instead.
Vermont utility companies may both sell their renewable energy credits (REC) and count them toward their state-required renewable energy quotas. According to some authorities, Vermont's renewable energy projects aren't renewable. "If a marketer generates renewable electricity but sells renewable energy certificates for all of that electricity, it would be deceptive for the marketer to represent, directly or by implication, that it uses renewable energy," said the Federal Trade Commission in a report cited by Vermont's Public Service Board.
On Friday, Galbraith argued that the significance of that assessment and report should not be downplayed. Armed with information from the study, lawmakers could revisit the wind-power legislation in their next session starting in January. "Then, we have our bite at the apple," Galbraith said. He also pointed out that the bill still contains a provision banning wind turbines -- or any other commercial development -- on state land.
Foes of mountaintop wind power in Vermont were dealt a setback Tuesday when a bill calling for more study of large-scale renewable energy development was significantly reduced in scope. Though the bill won preliminary approval in the Senate, it was only after provision calling for a slowdown of such development was scaled back, then removed completely.
The 24-6 vote came after a much closer series of votes on an amendment to remove provisions requiring greater consideration of town and regional plans when the Public Service Board reviews energy projects.