Sunday, April 19, 2015

Vermont and Renewable Sprawl: Perspective from Platts

SunGen Solar Farm
Sharon, VT
Vermont Leads the Way in Pushback Against Renewable Sprawl

Platts tracks world-wide energy prices and issues.  It is part of McGraw Hill Financial Services, and it offers a variety of subscriptions and analysis reports. Platts is known to be a premier source for energy information.

Platts covers the whole world, which means it doesn't spend a lot of time covering Vermont.  But sometimes Vermont energy issues "lead the way."  In that case, Platts has articles and blog posts about Vermont.

On that theme, Platts has a recent blog post about Vermont.  Before nuclear opponents start their happy dance, however, ("Oh yes we led the way, we did!"),  we should look at the subject of the Platts article.  Guest post: Out of sight, out of mind? Vermont considers its renewables describes how people in Vermont are pushing back against renewable sprawl.

As Long As It's Not Too Severe

The blog author  is John Kingston, president of McGraw Hill Financial Institute. He notes that people in Vermont support renewables in the same way that Edith Bunker supports capital punishment: "as long as it's not too severe." Local towns want more say in the siting process: they feel shut out of the conversation.  (Well, the towns are shut out of the conversation.  When the Public Service Board okays a project, the towns have little recourse.)

Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara
The Vermont legislature has been stymied this year about renewable legislation. It has come up with a new program: Wait Till Next Year.  Like Scarlett O'Hara, the legislature plans to "think about it tomorrow."  This year, the legislature hopes to pass legislation that will provide incentives for renewable projects in environmentally-damaged "brown fields" and gravel pits and so forth.

This won't work.  I mean, Vermont may get some renewable projects built in gravel pits, but the "90% renewables mandate" in Vermont means that there simply aren't enough gravel pits.  To quote the Platts post:

So like the civil New Englanders they are, everyone is agreeing to listen. But that’s not going to solve the problem. ….

The replacement for that (Vermont Yankee) power is going to need to occur with a lot of the population making Edith Bunker-like declarations about renewable energy which, as the growing disputes in Vermont show, can not take a major role in electricity generation unless it takes a major role in real estate consumption too.

Romaine River
from Wikipedia
End Notes:

I encourage you to read the comments on the Platts  post. One commenter from Quebec is cynical about Hydro Quebec (HQ) secrecy. Apparently, HQ has claimed to be able to supply Vermont, Ontario and even more places. But HQ doesn't actually share much information on its excess capacity to generate electricity.

HQ is definitely looking south to new markets, and constructing new dams on the Romaine River.

 Meanwhile, despite the 90% renewables mandate, Vermont is planning to remove small dams, rather than renovate them.  Apparently, in Vermont, dams affect the local ecology.

In recent weeks, the Vermont legislature has been considering new energy siting rules.  However, as noted above, the bottom line is that the legislature plans to Wait Till Next Year.


John Kingston said...

Meredith, thanks for linking to my post. It's true that Vermont is not a leading energy consumer or producer, but in it I see all of the conflicted goals that Americans have toward energy. Clean energy (like nukes) vs. a reflexive dislike of nuclear technology. A desire to wean itself off expensive oil and on to cleaner natural gas, vs. opposition to fracking, not that there are any shale deposits in Vermont, but still, the ban there speaks volumes. A desire to move toward renewable energy while wanting to have free flowing streams (so reduced hydropower) and beautiful scenery unspoiled by wind turbines. A desire to keep farms as farms and not solar farms, vs. an embrace of solar. Finally, a desire for a rural lifestyle and little density which requires extensive internal combustion engine us to get around at times. You see a lot of this in California too, but Vermont has it on steroids. -- J.K.

Travelogue for the Universe said...

Thank you, Meredith. It's hard to explain the frustrations I and other landowners have had over the Gaz Metro dba Vermont Gas proposed nG pipeline through Addison County. I am confounded by the all powerful PSB that Gives a route for a pipeline most oppose. PSB giving land rights away. Meanwhile, local landowners in Monkton,Vermont can't sell stone. Solar "farms" are hideous eyesores bigger than Billboards! Now Is PSB sanctioning wind turbines on Hogback Mountains in Monkton,Vermont? Those are my valuable mountain views, uninterrupted. Any fight private citizens have: we must lawyer up, spend a fortune, fight city hall. The idyllic Vermont views Lady Bird Johnson decided should be open, unobstructed. Our Vermont is threatened by Canadian ownership of electricity and gas. Canadians want to run an extension cord under Lake Champlain. No end to the folly.

Howard Shaffer said...

Many Vermonters have bought into Amory Lovins selling wind and solar as a free lunch.

Having emotionally decided they aren't bothered by facts.

John Hanson said...

@ Travelogue for the Universe,

If you don't want to see more eyesores on the land, why not get together with other members of your community and campaign for a modern replacement for Vermont Yankee? It's going to take some time - the safest candidates are molten salt reactors such as what TransAtomic Power are developing - but it wouldn't hurt to get the ball rolling!