When this year’s renewable energy conference got under way in Burlington on Wednesday there were, by some estimates, as many as 500 people at the event.
Gov. James Douglas was not among them.
“I was disappointed to not be invited,” Douglas said Thursday.
Douglas has been at the gathering of advocates, manufacturers and politicians involved in renewable power in the past – it is the sixth year of the conference.
But this year other political leaders were invited and Douglas’ name didn’t come up, said Andrew Perchlik, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont. It was not an intentional decision made because of Douglas’ outspoken opposition to wind, he said.
Instead Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, who has differed with Douglas on the issue of industrial wind development, spoke at the conference.
“We invited the lieutenant governor to speak because he has been the one active in developing renewable energy in the state,” Perchlik said. “It was a conscious decision to invite the lieutenant governor” but not a conscious decision to exclude Douglas.
And Douglas did not seek such an invitation, either, Perchlik said.
“Had we gotten a call from the governor saying ‘I want to be involved’ we would have met that request,” he said.
Douglas has long opposed commercial-scale wind projects in Vermont, saying the impact of “industrializing” the state’s ridgelines is not worth the amount of electricity that can be produced through such projects.
“I am not a fan of huge industrial turbines,” he said. “I don’t find them attractive frankly.”
But “other than wind we are on the same page” he said of the renewable energy advocates.
The 2007 Renewable Energy Vermont conference includes panel discussions and talks on everything from solar power to the economic development possibilities of renewable energy in Vermont. One workshop was on “Powering up the Vermont Wind Industry.”
Some other political leaders have been more pronounced in their support of renewable energy technologies, Perchlik said.
Douglas’ work on renewable energy “hasn’t been what we would like it to be,” Perchlik added.
However, he also said that his organization does not count Douglas’ veto of last lawmaking session’s renewable energy bill as a sign the governor is opposed to renewable energy efforts. That is because Douglas supported the pieces of that bill that aided renewable energy development, and opposed it for other reasons.
“We believe him when he said he supports that,” Perchlik said.
Renewable Energy Vermont has worked with state government during the effort to implement what parts of the bill can be put in place without new laws.
“We really can’t do the bulk of it, 90 percent of it, without legislation,” Perchlik said.
As for Douglas, he said it is foolish of advocates to argue that the state could replace large sources of power – like the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant – with wind turbines in any case.
“They really think we could get an equivalent amount of power from wind towers as we get from a nuclear power plant,” Douglas said.
By Louis Porter
Vermont Press Bureau
19 October 2007
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