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Vermont Electric Co-op CEO: no easy answers

NEWPORT CITY – Vermont Electric Co-Op (VEC) is working on getting a greener portfolio.
CEO Dave Hallquist told the Newport Rotary Club Tuesday that he and others at VEC learned a lot about what people understood about energy when they did community outreach with Kingdom Community Wind.
Kingdom Community Wind refers to the wind project on Lowell Mountain.
Hallquist, a retired engineer, said there are no easy choices as far as energy goes.
A lot of people in the country want to see renewable energy and there’s a comprehensive plan to move to 90 percent renewable power by 2050, something that Hallquist called a “noble goal.” But getting near that goal is not as simple as flipping a switch because the technology is not there.
“If you build the plan without the technology, you’re building a plan based on wishes and hope,” Hallquist said. “We certainly don’t run our utility based on wishes and hope.”
The equipment is not in place to get more power from Hydro Quebec and it is questionable whether or not Hydro Quebec would even sell more power.
“They are still smarting and hurting from the fact that we filed suit against them in 1998, after an ice storm,” Hallquist said. “HQ is not an answer.”
Going biomass would require a lot of timber and the majority of Vermont forests are tied up in private parcels. The answer to renewable energy, said Hallquist, is solar and wind.
The number one reason why people want renewable energy is to solve global climate change.
However, compared to other states, electric is about four percent of Vermont’s carbon footprint and the state has the cleanest energy portfolio in the United States.
Transportation along with heating and cooling are the biggest contributors to the carbon footprint and the most difficult to deal with. Hallquist said utilities are regulated, but not the same as fuel dealers.
Getting to a 90 percent renewable energy portfolio will require a mix of continuous power generation and high levels of intermittent generation like wind and solar.
There also needs to be a storage system in place. The least expensive system is lead acid batteries that need changing every three years. But such batteries aren’t necessarily good for anyone who wants a greener portfolio.