(Host) A key state official responsible for mapping out Vermont’s energy future is leaving his post after just a year on the job. The appointment of Jonathan Lesser had drawn criticism from some advocates, because he had worked as a consultant for the utilities that the state regulates.
VPR’S John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Economist Jonathan Lesser is going back to work as a private consultant. Lesser, who served for a year as a director of planning for the Department of Public Service, was a controversial choice for the job. He had worked as a consultant for Green Mountain Power in the 1990s, had testified for the company that owns Vermont Yankee, and was also a strong critic of the state’s energy conservation programs.
Lesser was the lead author of a draft energy plan that was widely criticized last year for not highlighting renewable energy sources. Lesser says the plan has been revised and is now being reviewed by the governor’s office. He believes the criticism was unfair.
(Lesser) “But nevertheless I think we’ve added quite a lot more in terms – there’s just tremendous amounts of details now on renewables.”
(Dillon) As director of planning for the state agency that represents ratepayers, Lesser’s job was to look ahead at Vermont’s future energy mix. He says he urged utilities to plan for the loss of power from Vermont Yankee, whose license expires in 2012. Lesser says the plant could be shut down four years sooner if it fails to win approval to store more high level waste in Vernon. According to Lesser, renewable energy can’t make up the gap.
(Lesser) “Even if you said, let’s go build all the wind we can – it just wouldn’t be enough to replace Vermont Yankee and it’s a very different type of power resource. So I think one of the issues that’s really out there is, where is that source going to come from? There is a lot of excess capacity in the region, a lot of it’s gas fired. And unfortunately gas prices have gone up, as we all know, which makes that power more expensive.”
(Dillon) Lesser’s boss, Public Service Commissioner David O’ Brien, says he wants to take his time to fill the job. He says the state will look within state government and in the electric industry for a new planning director.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.