The state’s renewable energy policy and the attempts to close Vermont Yankee came under criticism by several energy experts at a panel discussion on the “Role of Renewables in Vermont’s Energy Future,” hosted by the Rutland County Republican Party on Saturday.
Panel members included David O’Brien, former commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service and Tom Emero, of Beaver Wood Energy, which is planning to build a biomass-fueled electricity generation facility in Fair Haven.
O’Brien said when he looked at current energy legislation in Vermont, he saw only two possibilities.
“Either the folks who are proposing it, don’t understand what they’re doing or they have an alternative motive. … There is no rational basis for why they say these policies are being advanced based on the reality of where we are,” he said.
According to O’Brien, Vermont was already a leader in producing electricity that was reliable and clean. While O’Brien said he supported using solar and wind power, he said they were not consistent or inexpensive enough to be a primary energy source.
“I think that the the way our energy policy’s going, it’s like if your kid came home from school with an A plus and you told him to go back and do better. Vermont has got an A plus in energy policy and in Montpelier, they call it a crisis,” he said.
Emero told the audience that Beaver Wood was probably the “best ally the Republicans have.”
According to Emero, the biomass-fueled plant proposed for Fair Haven would burn wood that has no other use and provide a positive benefit for Vermont’s forests.
Emero acknowledged that his proposed biomass plant would benefit from state programs that support “green” energy even when it’s more expensive but said it would still be less expensive than energy created through other renewable sources.
“If you really want to stop wind and solar but don’t think you can do it outright, the next best thing you can do is promote a project like ours because our 30 megawatt biomass plant, eliminates the need for probably 120 megawatts of wind and solar,” he said.
Meredith Angwin, head of the Energy Education Project with the Ethan Allen Institute, said members of the project had debunked what she called the Vermont Public Interest Research Group idea that Vermont could “just put up all wind turbines and then we’ll be able to replace Vermont Yankee.” According to Angwin, there are people who are interested in renewable energy for “high-minded” reasons who believe using renewable energy sources are the right thing to do.
“There is also what I would call ‘low-minded.’ If you’ve really been watching what’s going on in the Statehouse and so forth, renewables seem to be a pot which can reward people,” she said.
Angwin said renewable energy sources like wind and solar needed support from natural gas or other sources because wind and sun “don’t turn on when we need them.”
“It’s a very important thing to understand that a gazillion wind turbines does not equal one coal or nuclear plant or biomass plant,” she said.
Guy Page, of the Vermont Energy Partnership, said he had been unable to get information from the Shumlin administration on how the state planned to replace the electricity generated by Vermont Yankee without using carbon fuels.
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