Sunday, November 18, 2012

Power, Carbon and Costs: Peter Lothes Guest Post

Petition Urging Granting a Certificate of Public Good to Vermont Yankee

Peter Lothes, Engineer and Business Manager
My name is Peter Lothes.  I live in Quechee Vermont, and I am here to urge the granting of a Certificate of Public Good to Vermont Yankee so it may continue to operate.  As a retired engineer and business manager, I believe closing Vermont Yankee would result in a terribly negative  impact upon the state’s economy, the well being of its residents, and our mutual goal of reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

We need Vermont Yankee for a number of reasons:

First:  We need the power capacity

Over time, the need for power will grow in Vermont, and the rest of the northeast grid which Vermont Yankee supports. Without Vermont Yankee, the additional power will have to come from new construction of fossil plants.  This will be costly, and will increase carbon emissions. Obtaining power from Hydro Quebec (which itself includes nuclear power) may seem in the short term to solve Vermont’s problem, but  buying their power does nothing for the rest of the area that  Vermont Yankee serves, and relying on a power source from outside of the US has its own very considerable risks.    Every knowledgeable expert I have read agrees that other low/no carbon generators (wind, solar, thermal etc.) cannot provide the base load of electrical power that will be needed in the future.  Dr. James Hansen of the Columbia Earth Institute (on the world’s most respected environmentalists) makes this case persuasively in his Storms of my Grandchildren among other writings.

Second: We need it to contribute to the world’s control of carbon emission.

Dr. Hansen and others (e.g. Dr. Robert Hargraves, Dartmouth Professor, PhD physics)  argue persuasively that only the development of nuclear power  for base load,  can keep China, India,  and the United States from burning the huge coal resources each of these countries has.   This is because only nuclear power can generate electricity cheaper, significantly cheaper, than coal.  They will all burn the cheapest fuel, and if they do so, nothing else that the rest of us do will matter, and carbon emissions will grow dramatically

Third:  We need it to maintain our expertise in the nuclear power technology

We have, in Vermont Yankee,  solid nuclear power technology and experience, upon which we can build in the future, as nuclear power becomes an important industry.   This is an industry which can grow dramatically, providing technology driven manufacturing, scientific , clerical and administrative businesses and employment.  It could be a significant export opportunity for the US, and will provide jobs and economic growth that would not be outsourced.  In the 70’s’s and 80’s, we lost our nuclear technology leadership base, and now the next generation of power reactors are being built in France and China. They ultimately will generate electricity at about 4 to 5 cents per kWh.  If  we continue to lose this technology, we will be importing, in addition to plastic toys and clothing, nuclear power plants built in China.

The nuclear industry will have  good paying, reliable businesses and jobs, and we need to grow them here in Vermont.

Lastly:  We need it to contain the cost of electricity in this state to keep and attract new businesses, and citizens.

Vermont is a very unfriendly  cost environment for businesses and individuals, largely due to our tax  and distribution structure.  Electrical power cost has been one of the few areas where the price to consumers, while not advantageous, is not excessive.  It has been kept that way in the past due to the very low cost of Vermont Yankee power.

I understand the following to be the costs distribution utilities here now pay for power from various sources (data from memory, and could be off somewhat)

Solar:  27 cents per  kwh Wind  15 cents      Vermont Yankee  6.1  cents, plus revenue sharing

Quebec Hydro:  5.9 cents Coal: 12 to 13 cents ( in China 6 to 8)

The wrong selection of power sources would drive our electricity costs ever higher, and drive businesses like GE and IBM out of the state.  It will make it impossible to attract new industry, or even attract retirees. They are a considerable asset to the state, and they struggle under the tax burden.

If we fail to participate in this energy transition, our  Vermont economy will stagnate or worse, and we will suffer  significantly more  carbon emissions than would be the case with Vermont Yankee operating.


Peter B. Lothes

Quechee, VT 05059


This is the 15th in a series of posts which share statements made in favor of Vermont Yankee at the Public Service Board hearing on November 7, 2012.

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