Parker criticizes Douglas on wind energy policy

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(Host) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker has stepped up his criticism of Governor Douglas’s energy policy – including the state’s failure to support large wind power projects.

But Douglas says the wind turbines would harm the state’s natural beauty, and that commercial-scale wind power should not be part of the state’s energy mix.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) This week, the Douglas Administration came out against a 26-turbine project planned for the Northeast Kingdom towns of Sheffield and Sutton. Douglas says he remains opposed to large wind projects for Vermont.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker says it’s a mistake to take wind energy off the table.

(Parker) “The governor has consistently failed to develop a constructive long-term vision of what our energy policy should be in the state of Vermont. And that shows up in lots of specific decisions and failures and missed opportunities on the part of the administration.”

(Dillon) Parker is the former director of the state’s energy efficiency division. And he’s trying to make energy issues a key element of his campaign.

Vermont now gets about two-thirds of its electricity from Hydro Quebec and the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Yankee’s license expires in 2012, and the Hydro Quebec contracts phase out in the next decade as well.

Parker says the state has to prepare now for its energy future. Without an aggressive plan to secure new energy sources, he says Vermont consumers could face 40% to 60% rate increases as utilities buy electricity in the open market.

(Parker) “And what I found is that Vermonters are surprisingly aware of this issue. They support efficiency. They support wind power. I find people coming up to me and saying. `you know we have to make tough choices. We’ve got to have wind as part of the mix in the state of Vermont.'”

(Dillon) But Douglas says he supports conservation and alternative energy projects, such as methane generators and small wind turbines. But he says large-scale wind projects should not be part of the energy mix.

(Douglas) “I believe strongly in renewables. But in the case of huge industrial turbines on our ridgelines, frankly I draw the line. I think an analysis of the benefit of the small amount of power in relative terms that would be generated from industrial wind mills is not worth the aesthetic impact.”

(Dillon) And Douglas has a ready answer to Parker’s criticism that the state has failed to plan for Vermont’s energy future. The governor says that’s just what will happen soon.

A bill passed in the last session called for hearings around Vermont to gather public input on energy issues.

(Douglas) “This can’t be a partisan matter. We need to find solutions that we can all agree to to maintain the stability of our supply, the relative inexpensive supply that we’ve all enjoyed and do what’s right for our state going forward.”

(Dillon) The governor says the state is close to finalizing a contract with a consultant to direct this public outreach process.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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