Monday, July 6, 2015

Vermont Utilities Seek Power: from Seabrook, from Solar. Guy Page Guest Post

Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant
Vermont utilities seek more nuclear power from Seabrook, 80 acres of solar planned for Rutland Town, and more

By Guy Page
Communications Director, Vermont Energy Partnership

Just because the Legislature has gone home doesn’t mean Vermont has taken a holiday from energy deals and projects. Far from it! In June alone, the wheels were turning to bring more hydro, nuclear (you read correctly), natural gas, and solar power to Vermont – or in the case of hydro, at least through Vermont.

Nuclear – in June both Green Mountain Power (GMP) and Vermont Electric Co-operative (VEC) petitioned the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) to buy nuclear power from Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire. Both deals would run from 2018 – 2034. Details are preliminary at present, but VEC’s petition calls for up to 10 MW of power. GMP, for its part, hopes the contract will help cover peak load needs. This will be the second GMP contract with Seabrook; the state’s largest utility entered into a baseload power contract in 2011.

Meanwhile at Vermont Yankee, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given the shuttered plant permission to access the decommissioning trust fund to help pay for spent fuel management, much to the consternation of the State of Vermont Department of Public Service. VY has also arranged about $150 million in private financing and has said that all spent fuel management monies will be reimbursed when the U.S. Department of Energy returns the funds set aside for the unopened national spent fuel repository.

Hydro – the Vermont Conservation Law Foundation has endorsed the construction of the TDI cable project beneath Lake Champlain, following the Quebec-based company’s decision to deliver $283 million for Lake Champlain cleanup. If built (2019 start date), the TDI project would carry hydro power south under the Lake, make landfall at Benson in Rutland County, and then traverse Vermont underground. Southern New England is regarded as the priority customer for the 1,000 MW of TDI power. The cost is expected to be 9-10 cents per kw/h, including the cost of construction, Vermont energy experts say. At least it will not suffer the fate of the Quebec high power transmission lines that were damaged from above in December, 2014, causing a power loss to almost 200,000 southern Quebec customers. Norman Dube, 53, a Quebec resident who allegedly had a labor dispute with Hydro Quebec, dropped unnamed objects on the power lines from an airplane, according to CBC coverage of his trial, which began this month.

Natural Gas - The PSB held hearings June 22-23 in Montpelier on the embattled Phase One (to Middlebury) Vermont Gas Pipeline Project. It was concerned that the cost estimate had jumped about 85% to $154 million. No decision on the project’s future was expected this week. However, supporters of New England regional fuel diversity note that the unexpected cost increases should be a cautionary tale to supporters of the “just build more gas pipeline” solution to New England’s projected energy supply shortfalls. Over-reliance on any one form of power – be it price-volatile natural gas or Quebec hydro-power – is risky for both reliability and affordability.

Solar – State energy officials, speaking at a June 24, Montpelier discussion of the revised Comprehensive Energy Plan, said instate solar development will be very heavy during the next 18 months, to take full advantage of federal tax credits for renewable energy construction before they expire Jan. 1 2017. As if to illustrate, the Rutland Herald reported the planned construction of two Cold River Road, Rutland Town solar farms totaling 55,000 panels spread out over 80 acres. One of the projects already has PSB approval, but will be appealed by Rutland Town to the Vermont Supreme Court.


Guy Page of VTEP is a frequent guest blogger at this blog.  This article has also appeared in several publications in Vermont, including Vermont Business Magazine.

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