Ever since Vermont utilities stopped buying power from Vermont Yankee in March, people who care about our energy future have been asking the question: What's in it for us, now? Why should energy consumers care if Vermont Yankee continues to operate?
In late June, a New England energy expert answered this question decisively and in depth. Jeffrey Tranen holds graduate degrees in electrical engineering from MIT. He had a distinguished career as a senior executive for energy transmission companies (but not Entergy, owner of Vermont Yankee). He chaired a founding committee of ISO-New England, the organization charged with overseeing the region's power supply. He is an energy-industry expert of the highest level.
In written testimony to the Vermont Public Service Board on behalf of Entergy's application for a Certificate of Public Good, Tranen identified four distinct ways that Vermonters may benefit from Vermont Yankee' s continued operation.
First, Vermont's ratepayers would receive between $9 million and $171 million over the next decade, thanks to a revenue-sharing agreement between the state's utilities and Yankee. According to that agreement, utility customers will receive a share of the plant's revenue whenever it sells power above a certain price, as long as the plant continues to operate.
Second, the continued operation of Vermont Yankee will likely result in lower electricity rates for all customers of utilities that purchase their power off the New England grid (including Vermont's); however, the specific amount of savings depends on the actual cost of market power. This has been true historically, because nuclear power has a low, stable price, compared to other types of energy.
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Fourth, keeping Vermont Yankee online will continue to prevent generation shortages, while also increasing fuel diversity on the grid. Baseload power sources (such as Yankee) play a vital role in preventing transmission losses by balancing out irregularities in generation from intermittent power sources like solar and wind. The smoother the transmission system runs, the less the power costs.
Tranen's testimony is focused on benefits to ratepayers alone and doesn't even touch on the stupendous economic and social benefit of 1,000-plus jobs and $15 million in annual state and local revenue. His full remarks are available at
What can opponents say to this? Certainly they can engage in the same-old scare tactics, corporate xenophobia, or ad hominem attacks on Tranen's motivations and credentials. What they can' t do -- although I'd like to see them try -- is factually, favorably compare the economic and environmental impacts from shutting down Vermont Yankee to the benefits of its continued operation, as described above by Tranen. His expert testimony makes an undeniable point: If Vermont Yankee stays open, ratepayers will benefit.
Howard Shaffer, PE, is a nuclear engineer, licensed in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Illinois, with degrees in electrical (Duke) and nuclear (MIT) engineering, and service as a nuclear submarine engineer officer. He was a start-up engineer at Vermont Yankee and other plants. He is on the board of advisers for the Energy Education Project of the Ethan Allen Institute, and is Coordinator for the American Nuclear Society's Vermont Grass Roots Project.
- All emphasis (bold lettering) added by Meredith Angwin
- Tranen's degree is a Graduate of Electrical Engineering, which is a degree M.I.T awards beyond the Master's degree but before the Ph.D. The degree was earlier reported as a Ph.D.
- The Public Service Board website has fallen behind. They have not yet mounted docket 7862 (that's the new docket for the Vermont Yankee Certificate of Public Good). Testimony on this docket was pre-filed in June, but the docket is not up yet. I obtained Tranen's testimony and placed it on the website of the Energy Education Project of the Ethan Allen Institute. The Public Service Board received the testimony in late June (that's the date) and others also received it, including me, Howard, probably media people, etc. So I had a copy available to post. All these filings are public documents, but our state has not posted any filings on docket 7682 yet. (Okay, I AM hoping the Public Service Board will read this and put up the docket and the documents very quickly!)