On Wednesday, IBM said they might close their large plant in Vermont if Vermont Yankee closes and their electric bills rise. A day later, the governor said he thought there was a plan for electric supply for Vermont: a plan that did not include Vermont Yankee. But, according to VPR, the governor says he can't find such a plan. The plan never existed, or it has gotten lost.
Seek and ye shall find. I am proud to say that I found the plan. Yes I did. Keep reading.
IBM Makes An Announcement about Energy Use and Continued Operations
The background about IBM:
- IBM has a huge wafer fabrication plant in Essex Junction, Vermont. It employs thousands of people.
- IBM spends $35 million a year for electricity.
- On Wednesday of last week, IBM said that they were very concerned about Vermont Yankee closing.
- IBM further said that they would not be able to operate in Vermont if their electricity prices rise and they expect the prices will rise without Vermont Yankee.
At that point, high-up people in the Vermont government responded.
- Legislators suggested to IBM that they could build their own power plant on the IBM wafer fab plant site.
- IBM answered that they were in the wafer fab business, and had no intention of building and operating power plants.
- Governor Shumlin tried to deal with the IBM announcement by saying "the statement I read was ‘We’re out of here,’ meaning we’re out of business, not that they’re moving somewhere else.” (Yes. You read that right. I often scratch my head about Shumlin's statements.)
- Shumlin further stated that he had been shocked, shocked to find out that the state had no energy plan for the future that did not include Vermont Yankee
C'est Moi, the Energy Sleuth
Well, gosh, I was shocked too. So I did a little digging on my own blog, and I found the missing plan.
As a matter of fact, the plan for going forward without Vermont Yankee was explained during a recent debate which I posted on my blog: Howard Shaffer and I debated James Moore of VPIRG and Vermont Senator Dick McCormack.
Senator McCormack sits on both the Senate Natural Resources Committee and the Finance Committee. The Natural Resources Committee deals with energy issues, and the Finance Committee deals with utility regulation (among other things). Therefore, McCormack's authority and his explanation of the Vermont energy plan are very credible. You can hear him explain it in his own words on the video below:
The Energy Plan on Video
The Energy Plan on Video
To hear the energy plan, you have to move the slider to about 22 minutes in to the tape.
At this point, I have just finished explaining the possible grid-level consequences of closing Vermont Yankee, as described by ISO-NE, the grid operator.
Senator McCormack does not dispute my description of post-Yankee grid problems, and adds that he is on the Senate Finance Committee which reviews ISO-NE reports. He says that people ask him about "where will the electricity come from without Yankee" as if nobody in the legislature ever thought of it before. People who want Yankee's license to be extended will ask that question, and his tone of voice implies that they are a bit silly.
McCormack says the transition will be difficult, but the utilities have assured the legislature that the grid has plenty of excess power and can make up the loss from Yankee. He also says energy efficiency is important.
At this point, I thought I had a pretty clear idea of the energy plan. I thought it was that Vermont would buy from the grid and also improve energy efficiency. McCormack understands there will be grid problems and other problems, but that is the plan. Buy from the grid at market prices. Okay. I don't like this plan particularly, but it seemed realistic at least.
Now we are around 24 or 25 minutes into the tape, and McCormack begins to to describe the long term plan, not the transition energy plan. In all honesty, this may not be the official plan, but only McCormack's own plan. But since McCormack describes the earlier plan as "the transition," I think this is the official longterm plan. Also, he is on all the relevant committees in the Senate, and he is describing the longterm plan, so I think this is it. I think I found it.
We DO Have A Plan
As McCormack explains, the long-term plan is about cutting back on our electric use. (I got the impression these will be big cut-backs, not some little wimpy measures.) Vermonters will cut back voluntarily, or at least McCormack hopes we cut back voluntarily. If not voluntarily, we will still cut back. (McCormack does not outline the mechanism for non-voluntary cutbacks.) He further says that that the idea that everyone can have all the electricity they want is outmoded. If you listen for about five minutes, between 21 and 26 minutes on the video, you can hear the entire conversation.
So there it is. The Vermont energy plan, on video, in the words of a ranking Senator from both significant Senate committees. The long-term plan for replacing VY is simple: Vermont just can't keep using all that electricity.
Look, I know IBM won't like this. I don't like this. However, I only stated that I found the plan and I am happy to share it with Governor Shumlin. I never said I liked the plan, I just said that Vermont has a plan. The Governor can start with that knowledge, and go on from there.
Vermont will just stop using so much electricity. This will be easier, of course, if IBM shuts down and stops drawing all that power.
The Backstory on this post: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
In building this post and finding the plan, I acknowledge and thank many writers and reporters, as well as other reporters linked within the text above.
My first and foremost tip of the hat is to Rod Adams, for his two posts:
40-year -old nuclear plants can produce electricity that is "too cheap to meter"--that capability angers the competition
The second tip of the hat is to Jack Harding of Vermont Tiger for his post
And finally, for the WCAX reporting (with video) that first covered the story.
And finally, I appreciate VPR for Bob Kinzel's interview with Shumlin, and especially for these quotes:
"The extraordinary thing to me is that I stand here as your governor - 16 months before the shutdown date that was scheduled when we approved it 40 years ago - and state government has one plan. That's to continue to operate it beyond its design date. There was never a second plan, which might have been: What if it is actually shut down when it was scheduled to be shut down?"
"I sit here with my team frankly scrambling to put together a shutdown plan that should have been designed over the years."