Letter: Better Option Than Renewables

To the Editor:

The 2011 Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan has a goal of obtaining 90 percent of all energy from renewable sources by 2050, not just electrical energy, which accounts only for about one-third of total energy. Poor Vermont’s goal is far more extreme than rich Germany’s 2050 goal.

Vermont’s heavily subsidized SPEED projects and ridge line wind turbine projects, such as the one on Lowell Mountain, produce energy at a cost of 15 to 20 cents per kilowatt hour before the 6 to 7 cent utility markup.

Solar SPEED projects, which receive a state-mandated 27 cents per kilowatt hour, are mostly owned by in-state and out-of-state multimillionaires seeking a tax shelter for their high incomes. The high energy costs are charged to already-struggling households and businesses whose real incomes have mostly been declining since 2007, due to the near-zero-growth economy.

VELCO, the owner/manager of Vermont’s high-voltage electrical transmission system, typically makes capital cost projections for 10- to 20-year periods, based on growth in electrical demand. However, that growth has not happened since 2007. In fact, demand and consumption have decreased, mainly due to skimping and cost-cutting by households and businesses, and to increased energy efficiency.

As a result, VELCO does not need to make as much of an investment to expand the transmission system, and an estimated $250 million does not need to be budgeted for the next 10 to 20 years. This has almost nothing to do with renewable energy projects, because they are mostly connected to the low-voltage electrical distribution systems, which are owned by utilities such as Green Mountain Power.

All of New England already has a surplus of generating capacity, even with Vermont Yankee closed. There is no need to advocate for building more capacity.

Fossil fuel consumption and related carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced much more quickly and at a much lower cost with increased energy efficiency than with renewable energy projects that produce high-cost energy that is three to four times New England grid prices.

Willem Post