VTDigger: Flory: Shumlin’s energy proposal puts planning before the facts

Oct 06, 2011 No Comments by

Reposted from vtdigger.org.

This op-ed is by state Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, a resident of Pittsford.

 

If the Shumlin Administration gets its way, Vermonters will soon be paying more for energy and sending energy jobs and money to other states and Canada. And the power will be dirtier, particularly in the near term.

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposed energy plan, fast-tracked for completion by November, would have 90 percent of Vermont’s energy from renewables by 2050.

The Vermont Department of Public Service unveiled the 400-plus-page report Sept. 14 and set an Oct. 10 comment deadline. Apparently, Vermonters must drop whatever they are doing to examine a huge document that could impact Vermonters’ pocketbooks and way of life for decades. The “transparency” administration has thrown hundreds of pages of potentially ruinous energy policy at Vermonters and said “tell me what you think, but make it quick.”

The report audaciously assumes the state will force Vermont Yankee to close, or that Vermont can simply do without the one-third of the state’s energy it provides.

 

It is one thing to be confident. It is quite another to dedicate hundreds of hours of expensive state workers’ time to a report that could – and indeed should – be irrelevant when an independent federal judge issues his ruling.

 

It is also questionable why DPS has charted the state’s energy future while our two largest utilities are planning to merge. Wouldn’t it be better to first gauge the ramifications of this transaction, then make energy policy for the next 39 years?

 

And, for transparency’s sake, DPS should disclose the cost of preparing this report to date.

 

Regarding nuclear power, the report acknowledges that without Vermont Yankee “…a significant amount of nuclear power will continue to supply baseload energy to the New England grid and will be used by Vermont utilities as well as the other states for years to come.” We will still be buying nuclear power – we just won’t have the jobs and revenue.

 

Without Vermont Yankee, which accounts for a third of the state’s electricity and 70 percent of in-state generation, Vermont will have to rely on New England grid power: mostly nuclear and fossil-based natural gas and coal. Buying grid power on the “spot market” is expensive, like going to a convenience store instead of the locally-owned co-op or supermarket. The seeming lack of concern about cost is troublesome.

 

An International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers study found that Vermont Yankee accounts for 1,200 jobs in the state of Vermont and $100 million in annual economic activity, via wages, tax payments and purchases. It provides competitively priced, reliable power. These are important considerations for consumers and businesses that want to stay and expand here.

 

For 2012 and beyond, the Shumlin administration does not have a solid, demonstrable answer for replacing these jobs or economic benefits. The administration’s refusal to reconsider Vermont Yankee, especially in light of strong safety assessments from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, shows the administration is placing politics above Vermonters’ pocketbooks and will sacrifice the jobs of many hard-working Vermonters.

 

Furthermore, Vermont’s utilities will have to buy more out-of-state power, projected to cost more long-term than Vermont Yankee’s power at present. The Department of Public Service should at least make public the cost of the replacement power, relative to the March power-purchase agreement provisions Vermont Yankee publicly offered. But that, too, has been hidden away.

As with health care, so with energy: This governor’s approach to problem-solving panders to special interests without disclosing the substantial costs to ordinary Vermonters. While a select number of renewable energy power providers will profit as the anti-nuclear constituency is appeased, far more problems are created than solved.

 

Vermonters deserve better.

 

Until we know the future of Vermont Yankee, the future of our utilities, and understand the near-term impact to energy costs and jobs from policy alternatives, the DPS study should be tabled.

 

 

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