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Business Leaders Consider Vermont Energy Future  

Where Vermont will get its electric power in the future is a question with many possible answers. And Friday the state’s leading businesses heard about several options.

One of the cheapest sources of electricity ever devised is Washington Electric Cooperative’s generator that runs off methane from the landfill in Coventry. The generator is currently down following a fire, but an upgrade will soon put it back on line.

Avram Patt, the co-op’s general manager, told the Vermont Business Roundtable, “We have put a big emphasis and will continue to, on energy efficiency and conservation.” He said the utility has been able to avoid a rate hike since 1999.

The group of executives at the state’s largest employers talked about the state’s energy future. The track record to date isn’t bad. Vermont has the least expensive electric power in New England, due to low-cost sources at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and Hydro Quebec. But there’s concern about what happens after Vermont Yankee’s license expires in 2012 and Hydro Quebec contracts expire after that.

Chris Dutton, president at Green Mountain Power Corp., posed the question that dominated the meeting. “What are we going to do when we think about replacing our base load resources?”

Vermont’s base load power from large sources that run 24 hours a day, like Vermont Yankee, provide mostly clean, non-polluting energy. The debate continues over how large a role that renewable sources, like wind power, could play in the future. The Business Roundtable says some, but not all.

John Marshall, the Roundtable’s chairman of an infrastructure working group, asserted, “It is not realistic to think that we can get there with a portfolio that is exclusively based on efficiency and renewable resources.”

Meanwhile, Hydro Quebec vice-president Chrisian Brosseau said his company is talking about renewing long term contracts, a development that would come as good news in Vermont.

At the same time, the Roundtable has warmed up to the idea of more in-state power on a smaller scale. But Roundtable chairman Staige Davis had a message for state legislators who attended the discussion. He said it won’t happen if they don’t streamline the permitting process. “I can imagine trying to get a permit for any one of the great ideas about the renewables,” he said. “It would take long beyond 2012 or 2016. So it would be great if we could find a way to ease that regulatory process for renewable energy.”

The message here was that there are different options, but not much time left, for Vermont to decide its energy future.

A larger discussion included the future of other forms of energy, including home heating and gasoline, and the need to develop alternative fuels like bio-diesel. One speaker, David Hill of the Vermont Energy Investment Corp., warned the business community that global warming poses a challenge that will have to be answered.

Andy Potter – Channel 3 News.

wcax.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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