Gov. Peter Shumlin told reporters on Monday “it’s too early to say” whether he favors the construction of a high voltage transmission line from Canada through Vermont to southern New England, but he hasn’t ruled out the idea.
Shumlin suggested that Vermont, or another state, could “negotiate a preferential price in exchange for hosting that corridor.”
“Canada has cheap renewable hydro power that can work as a reliable load (power) when the wind isn’t blowing, and the sun isn’t shining, and we have no comprehensive plan for getting that juice to the New England market,” Shumlin said.
Shumlin made the remarks in a telephone conference call with reporters on Monday during a three-day conference Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the 35th Annual Meeting of the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers.
Shumlin told the press that the regional leaders are interested in pursuing a study to determine where best to locate a transmission corridor. Provincial premiers want to sell excess power from Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, to metropolitan areas in southern New England. A representative from ISO New England, a regional transmission utility, attended the conference.
Vermont negotiated a long-term power agreement with Hydro-Quebec last year.
In addition, two Canadian firms, Fortis, Inc., and Gaz Metro, recently bid on the state’s largest utility, Central Vermont Public Service.
Shumlin fielded questions from reporters about whether he had been attempting to persuade CVPS board members to accept the offer from Gaz Metro, which already owns Vermont Gas Systems and Green Mountain Power, the second biggest electric company in the state.
“We’re not lobbying, we’re just answering questions when we’re asked,” Shumlin said.
The governor said his administration has been in communication with CVPS board members.
“When they have questions we have to answer them – we have nothing to hold back,” Shumlin said. “They want to know of these two offers which looks better.”
Shumlin, for his part, makes no bones about which offer he believes is preferable: Gaz Metro’s.
“Right now I understand the stockholders of CVPS went to bed on Friday night of Memorial Day weekend (and on Monday they woke up) $150 million richer,” Shumlin said. “That’s true under either deal, but I have yet to see what the Fortis deal does for Vermonters.
Shumlin pointed to the purported $149 million in savings from the consolidation of Green Mountain Power and CVPS over 10 years and the 30 percent stake Vermont would gain in VELCO as examples of givebacks Gaz Metro would promise ratepayers.
As for job losses in Rutland? “The best way to create jobs is to have lower power costs. No doubt about that in my mind,” Shumlin said. “It gives us a manufacturing advantage. In terms of job creation, you can’t find a better job creator than low power rates.”
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