Monday, November 18, 2013

Where Vermont Power Will Come From After Vermont Yankee

Rainfall in U S during ice storm
Does not include rainfall Jan 4 and 5
On Sunday, the Valley News published my op-ed Yankee's Closing Will Hurt Vermont. 

I always enjoy having an op-ed in the my local Sunday paper.  I hope you read it. It's about the probable effects on Vermont when Vermont Yankee closes.

Factors Affecting Vermont Electricity 

As I wrote in the op-ed:

Vermont Yankee’s closing will affect everyone in Vermont. It will make our electricity more expensive, more fossil-fuel based and less reliable.

I explained the factors that will affect our power supply and pricing after Vermont Yankee closes.  Specifically:

  • The plant will not be replaced by renewables.  Wind turbine construction in Vermont is practically at a standstill, for example.
  • Our power will come from outside Vermont, and be subject to various sorts of interruption, including too few natural gas supply lines, ice storms, and HydroQuebec needing to use its electricity in Quebec during a cold snap.
  • The electricity price will follow the grid price of natural gas.  According to FERC, the New England price of natural gas is set to rise substantially (from $6.60 MMBTU to $11.75 MMBTU).  In the rest of the country, the price of natural gas is set to remain stable.
  • Grid payments of $75 million to oil-burning plants (the ISO-NE Winter Reliability Program) will be rolled into our electricity costs.

What About the People at Vermont Yankee?
Realtor map of my area
Map shows town boundaries
Dartmouth is in Hanover
My home is in Hartford

Several people asked me why I didn't mention the people at Vermont Yankee, the effect of the plant closing on the local economy, the effect on the state economy, the effect on the state taxes?  

There's a simple reason.  I live about sixty miles north of the plant, and I think people in this area don't care very much about southern Vermont.  People here generally commute across the bridge to New Hampshire, where they work at Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Medical Center, and many high-tech industries spawned by Dartmouth (for example, HyperTherm).  

People here care where their electricity comes from. They care about reliability and about environmental impact.  They care somewhat about their electric bills.  My own feeling is people here don't care that much about what happens to Brattleboro or Vernon. They are insulated from many aspects of the Vermont economy through their jobs in New Hampshire.

Therefore, for my local paper, I wrote about things that affect all of Vermont: where our electricity comes from, how reliable it is, how fossil fuels will be used to produce our electricity, and how expensive electricity may become.

The Op-Ed

For an op-ed, Yankee's Closing Will Hurt Vermont was  very data-dense!  Sometimes I wondered--where was the "opinion" part?  Why did I write it this way?

Still, it was fun to write, and I plan to reprint it on this blog in a week or so.  

However, I always like to have people access the op-ed at the newspaper for a few days before I begin putting it on my own blog.  I hope you enjoy the article.

P.S.  Just came across an article in a Boston business journal which says that Boston should expect a 20% percent price rise in electricity this winter, for some of the same reasons I discussed for expecting price rises in Vermont.


Carl said...

Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in California increased by 35% in 2012, partly due to the early closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant...

...The Air Resources Board said that the increase in emissions in 2012 was "primarily due to emission increases from California electricity generation using natural gas as a fuel." This was due to a decrease in available hydroelectric generation as well as the shut down of the San Onofre nuclear plant...

...As well as increasing emissions, the plant's closure has also impacted California's wholesale electricity prices. Over the first half of 2013, the US Energy Information Administration reported a 59% increase in wholesale power prices in the state, which it ascribes largely to the extended outages at the two units...

trag said...

That is a nice piece of writing, and congratulations on getting it into the local paper.

One thing that struck me, while reading the section regarding buying electricity from Quebec, is that Quebec would have more electricity available to sell during high demand periods, if they had not shut down Gentilly 2.

That was probably too much of a digression for your tightly written piece, but I think it's ironic.

The same backwards thinking ignorance that will gift Vermont with expensive, unreliable electricity in the winter is also preventing it from purchasing all the electricity it needs from Quebec.

Meredith Angwin said...

I agree. Closing VY is wrong so many ways, including greenhouse gas emissions! But there was only so much space. Also, I wanted to write something that would surprise people, to some extent. Most people have heard that VY is important to the economy, doesn't emit greenhouse gases, etc. They don't know about the natural gas squeeze, our position vis-a-vis HQ (they take care of Quebec first) and other things.

I am also the administrator on the Save Vermont Yankee FB page. Last January, during the cold snap, I got some very interesting comments on what fools the people at HQ were to shut down Gentilly and not have power to send us. These comments mostly came from Quebec! HQ gets most of its profits from export power, not legacy power.

More on this in the January post on "Cold Weather Winners and Losers on the Grid"