(Host) Vermont’s four largest electric utilities believe the state needs new generating plants to replace at least some of the power they buy from outside sources.
As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, the companies say the plants should be powered by renewable energy, such as wood or wind.
(Sneyd) Most of the electricity that powers Vermont comes from Hydro-Quebec or Vermont Yankee.
Within eight years, those contracts will expire.
The utilities hired a consultant to figure out where to get their electricity in the future.
Steve Costello of Central Vermont Public Service says they’ll have to continue to buy power. He says they’ll also look at building their own generators.
(Costello) "I don’t think it’s absolute, but I think that the study clearly points that there are some significant advantages to building some new generation in Vermont. It diversifies our portfolio, it gives us more control over our portfolio and I think we will look very, very hard at that option.”
(Sneyd) The utilities say they’d never be able to build a coal-fired plant or another nuclear plant in Vermont.
The consultant helped them figure out what other alternatives they could pursue – and what they would cost.
The two largest utilities both embrace renewable energy, but they’ve come to somewhat different conclusions about how to make that goal reality.
Costello says Central Vermont is interested in building medium-sized combined heat-and-power plants in the southern part of the state.
(Costello) "We intend at CV to commission four or five engineering studies for very specific locations where those types of generation plants might be fitting.”
(Sneyd) The plants would burn wood to generate electricity for CV and produce heat that would be used by a neighboring school or factory. CV also would consider a gas-fired plant.
Green Mountain Power has focused on generators that have the smallest carbon footprint possible. Dorothy Schnure says the report validates GMP’s plan to buy power from Hydro-Quebec even as it builds wind and solar projects in Vermont.
(Schnure) "We have said that we think that an important part of our energy future is building more in-state, largely renewable projects. And by having all this information, real solid information data about what it would take to get that done, that will help move us toward making that a reality.”
(Sneyd) Washington Electric Co-op also participated in the study. General Manager Avram Patt says one of the things the report points out is that Vermonters may have to face up to where their power comes from.
(Patt) "For most of us right now, we don’t see where our electricity comes from and if we move in the direction of at least increasing the amount of smaller-scale generation, that means there’ll be facilities near us that we drive by or we’re more aware of.”
(Sneyd) Those social considerations will help drive the utilities’ decisions. But so will the financial and environmental concerns. The utilities say all of those factors will be up for public debate in the coming months as they replace Hydro-Quebec and Vermont Yankee.
For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.