Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Low-Carbon Connecticut River Hydro, Fuel Diversity, and Taxes. Guest post by Guy Page

Comerford Dam
On the Connecticut, but upriver
(I couldn't find a good picture of Rockingham Dam)
Connecticut River hydro dam tax dispute underscores need for New England fuel diversity

The glut of hydro-fracked natural gas has drastically reduced the value of a large, low-carbon power plant located in Windham County on the banks of the Connecticut River, according to expert testimony given in Vermont Superior Court May 11, as reported by the May 12 Rutland Herald.

The plant under discussion is the 40-MW TransCanada hydro dam located in Rockingham. But if the situation sounds familiar to followers of the Vermont Yankee story, it should. The Vernon plant was forced to close last year because New England's electricity purchasing and transmission system was unresponsive to the threat the natural gas glut posed to one of the region's star producers of low-cost, low-carbon electricity.

New England hydro dams and other traditionally low-cost, low carbon power manufacturers are financially vulnerable due to the glut of hydro-fracked natural gas. The glut is good news for consumers - but only in the short-term. Because New England's energy purchasing policies favor lowest-
cost generation with scant regard to fuel source and the benefits of fuel diversity, the region's hydro and nuclear power plants are suffering financially. State and regional energy planners must recognize the value of the low cost, low-carbon power plants. Our environment needs emission-free power, our state and local governments need their revenue, and when natural gas prices rise, our residential and
industry ratepayers will need them more than ever.

The TransCanada dam doesn't appear to be a candidate for closure, yet. But its reduced value -
about $41 million less than its assessed value of $108 million, its owners say - should be seen as yet another warning that if New England really wants a long-term, diverse, low-carbon power portfolio, regional power purchasing policies must change. A recent statement by New England’s governors boosts natural gas transmission and renewable power, but offers little encouragement to regional hydro and nuclear power generators. This is unfortunate. Change to protect New England’s clean, affordable energy future is long past due.

Guy Page
Guy Page is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.  He is  Communications Director of the Vermont Energy Partnership (, a Montpelier-based coalition of individuals, businesses, and labor and development organizations promoting clean, safe, affordable and reliable electricity for Vermont. Vermont Yankee is a VTEP member.  This post first appeared on the VTEP blog.

No comments: