MONTPELIER – Upgrades to the Lowell Substation and some 18.1 miles of the B20 transmission line from Johnson to Lowell, as well as upgrades to 1.5 miles of the B22 line in the towns of Eden, Johnson, Lowell and Morrisville – approved earlier in a petition to the Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) for separate Certificates of Public Good (CPG) – have increased in cost by $5.38 million since being proposed pre-pandemic.
Costs for the substation upgrade in Lowell and the two transmission lines have gone from a 2019 estimate of $15,455,719 to $20,837,551.
The plans for the substation rebuild and transmission line cost for the B20 line increases were reported by law to the Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) as part of the earlier-granted Certificate of Public Good issued to Green Mountain Power (GMP); the transmission line project for the B22 line also includes the Village of Morrisville Water and Light Department, the Village of Johnson Water and Light Department of GMP, the Village of Morrisville Water and Light Department, and the Village of Johnson Water and Light Department, which hold a joint CPG with GMP.
GMP owns the Kingdom Community Wind generation facility in Lowell; Vermont Electric Co-op (VEC) has a power purchase agreement for some of the energy produced and VEC owns some transmission equipment at the facility, according to GMP.
In a document sent to the PUC in August by GMP’s legal counsel, Debra L. Bouffard, she shared a letter from the power company’s Lead of Engineering John Fiske, in which he explained the upward pressure on costs for the earlier-approved upgrades to the substation and the two transmission lines.
“While the level of cost overrun is frustrating, GMP respectfully submits that the Project continues to meet the need for present and future demand for service that could not otherwise be provided in a more cost-effective manner through energy conservation programs and measures, and energy-efficiency and load management measures,” Fiske wrote. “In particular, the B20 Line portion of the Project was needed to address the aging asset condition of the line, whose function could not be displaced by reductions or management of electric load. In addition, GMP testified in this case, although the B20 Line portion of the Project could have otherwise been slightly smaller in scale and deferred several years, implementing all of the Project elements at this time represented the most cost-effective measure to address congestion on the Sheffield-Highgate Export Interface (SHEI), and was anticipated to provide more than $11 million in net benefits to customers.”
In the analysis of the increased costs for the project, Fiske noted, “Contractor costs were estimated to be $4,807,946 and are now projected to be $9,048,740. The major drivers for the contractor cost increases are increased costs formatting, environmental support, legal fees, and asbestos mitigation.”
Fiske wrote, “… Accordingly, even with the cost overrun, we are confident the Project is still the most cost-effective SHEI mitigation measure and we continue to anticipate that customers will realize significant net benefits.”
Environmental Group Questions Cost Increase
Annette Smith, executive director of the nonprofit watchdog group, Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE), expressed concerns about the costs, saying they had “ballooned;” “This is in addition to prior post-construction expenses that were necessary to address grid interconnection issues … Had the true cost of the Lowell Wind project (Kingdom Community Wind) been known at the outset, would it have been approved?” she asked of the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell. Why should ratepayers be responsible for GMP’s failure to honestly disclose the project’s costs given the remote location in an area with inadequate transmission?”h
“Is this throwing more money at a project that should never have been built where it is, all at ratepayer expense?” asked Smith.
On Sunday, Smith said, “Regardless of the reason, the Lowell Wind project was built in a remote area with extraordinary ecological resources that had much greater value than the minimal amount of electricity being produced. It was well known at the time it was proposed that the area lacked adequate transmission capacity to handle the additional power.”
Smith added, “There is no excuse, more than a decade later, to saddle ratepayers with any additional costs.”
Kristin Kelly, GMP’s spokeswoman, said in a statement issued this weekend, “Kingdom Community Wind is an important energy source, helping control costs for customers while generating clean energy locally.
“This project is supported by the community and continues to deliver on its commitments. The project … will boost reliability for local communities while also enabling more clean energy projects.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding