Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Alternative Energy Siting in Vermont: The Hearing

The Siting Commission

When the drumbeat of opposition to the industrial wind projects grew loud enough in the fall of 2012, Governor Shumlin created the Governor's Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission by executive order on October 2, 2012.   The first sentence of the executive order is that:

Whereas, as set forth in the 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan and statute, Vermont has recognized the need to increase its energy independence and resilience through the greater use of renewable energy in all sectors; 

As many Vermonters see it, this body is supposed to deflect heat from the Public Service Board, which was siting industrial wind projects and riding roughshod over Vermont town land-use planning in order to do so.  This new Siting Commission is also allowed to ride roughshod over the town plans, but somehow, we are supposed to like it better.  As I noted in a recent post, the Vermont Senate considered a bill requiring stronger environmental review of energy projects, but only passed a gutted bill.

At any rate, the new Commission is holding some public hearings, and I went to one last night.  It was an interactive TV hearing, with people attending from all over Vermont. A large crowd was present in the Lyndonville TV studio. Lyndonville is in the Northeast Kingdom (NEK) of Vermont, where the wind projects are being built, despite much local opposition.

Spillway at Hydro Quebec
Most speakers were against the projects, and they were angry because they realized they are powerless to do anything about the projects. The Siting Commission also doesn't have to pay attention to the town or regional plans.  Other speakers asked why Vermont has to make all its own energy, when after all, it doesn't grow all its own food or make all its own clothes.

Guy Page of VTEP (Vermont Energy Partnership) spoke. He referenced his recent report that Vermont already gets over 50% of its electricity from sources it considers renewable.  Luckily, the Vermont legislature passed a law saying that power from Hydro Quebec is renewable.  That sure helped our renewable percentages around here!

Note: I recommend a blog post today by Howard Shaffer about renewable energy in Vermont. Alternative energy in Vermont – Chickens coming home to roost  at ANS Nuclear Cafe includes an excellent history of energy controversies in Vermont and a root cause analysis of energy opposition.

I also spoke at the Siting Commission meeting, and my statement is below.

Energy Density and Renewables: My Statement

It is relatively easy to think of people who are opposed to renewable energy projects as NIMBYs, and there may be some of that included in their opposition.  However, renewable energy sources have lower energy density than traditional sources (such as fossil fuels and nuclear power). Therefore, renewable projects often require significant use of land.

The book Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air, written by the carbon-advisor to the British Government, looks at the land use requirements for Britain if it attempted to obtain all its energy through renewables.  Similarly, the recent report by the Wilderness Society looks at land-use implications if the Northeast attempts to obtain most of its energy through renewables: Cumulative Landscape Impacts of Renewable Energy Alternatives for Northern New England   

If you look at these books and reports, you will see that there are extensive land-use implications to the use of renewables.  Towns could be trampled by renewable projects if such projects are considered more important than their own land-use planning processes.  I urge you to abide by the planning processes of the towns, and not override them.
A view in the Northeast Kingdom


Anonymous said...

This whole deal of going in with Hydro Quebec got me to wondering if any of you think your Governor (Shumlin) is somewhat of a hyprocrite in that he takes every opportunity to rail against an out-of-state but US company, always going out of his way to name it as "Entergy Louisiana" (as if Louisiana was the forbidden word), yet he has no problems embracing Hydro Quebec, which is not only out-of-state, but also out-of-the-country? Don't get me wrong, I have no problems with foreign trade per se, but it seems Shumlin is talking out of both sides of his mouth if he makes one company seem somehow "evil" for being "Lousiana", but the other is Quebec and "not evil". Why is he being disloyal to a US-based company, one that provides jobs and security not only to US citizens, but citizens of his own state? It seems he is willing to throw his own constituents out of work by trashing VY, and at the same time throw in his lot with a firm that provides jobs to non-US, non-Vermont employees.

Meredith Angwin said...

Yes, I have noticed this, and so have other people.

The situation is even worse than you describe, because Green Mountain Power is a wholly owned subsidiary of Gaz Metro, a Canadian company with kind-of-weird ties to Hydro Quebec. (They are both part of some kind of Quebec province-wide holding company, but I have never figured it out so I don't write about it.)

Anyhow, a relatively recent post about this: What's in it for Vermont? What's in it for Shumlin?