Hydro does not count as renewable energy! Need plan

Saint Albans Messenger; November 9, 2015

Presently Vermont has 84 active hydroelectric generation facilities operated by public and private utilities, electric coops, companies and individuals. Together they have a total generating capacity of 190 megawatts (MW). In 2013 twenty percent of Vermont’s net electricity generation was from hydroelectric power.

Vermont State Statute 30 V.S.A. § 8002 (13) is as follows: “New renewable energy” means renewable energy produced by a specific and identifiable plant coming into service after December 31, 2004. With no new hydroelectric plants commission since 1993 none of the hydroelectric generation in Vermont qualifies as renewable energy under state statute.
Even though it is negligible I will mention that under sec. (B) If an existing renewable energy plant is retrofitted with new technologies only the additional energy produced due to the upgrades, calculated by using a historical baseline established by calculating the average output of that plant for the 10 yr. period prior to December 31, 2004, is considered renewable energy- see, negligible. The State of Vermont had a chance to buy eight hydroelectric dams: two on the Deerfield River and six on the Connecticut River. These eight facilities combined produce 527 mw or 50% of Vermont’s power needs. They are now owned by a Canadian firm, Trans Canada, and the power is sold to southern New England. These dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers combined with Vermont’s existing hydroelectric dams would produce 70% of Vermont’s renewable energy needs. Governor Shumlin’s Act 170 goal of 75% renewables by 2032 would have been obtained well ahead of schedule.

Instead we are dealing with controversial siting locations of solar and wind projects!

Hydro Quebec now qualifies as renewable energy as of June 4, 2010 due to the Act Relating To Renewable Energy. They provide 25% of Vermont’s kwh load. If you disregard the missed opportunities on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers and instead combine the renewed Hydro Quebec contract with the 20% of current Vermont hydro that is not being counted, then Vermont would be well on its way with 45% renewable energy sources.

There are eighteen power companies in Vermont with 80% of the meters being served by Green Mountain Power (GMP) and the remaining 20% served by electric cooperatives or municipal utility companies who are organized under the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority (VPPSA). One of these municipal utilities is Swanton Electric which services 3,600 meters at the lowest cost in the state at 11 cents per kwh thanks to the Orman Croft Hydroelectric Plant on the Missisquoi River. Hydropower produced close to the consumer reduces inefficiencies due to the losses incurred during transmission across long distances as a result of friction with the transmission lines. This was the way it was for locally generated power before the “selling to the grid” for a low wholesale price and then buying it back at an increased price came along.

Because this renewable (hydroelectric) energy source does not qualify as renewable energy it is also not eligible for funding which is instead being showered on wind and solar. As a result our hydroelectric facilities, which are in need of repair and upgrades, are losing out to the glamorous upstarts in the renewable energy game and are at risk of being taken off-line. What a shame to lose a dependable and durable renewable energy supply to other sporadic, short-lived renewable energy sources.

Green Mt Power, which is owned by Gaz Metro a privately held Canadian firm, operates 32 of the hydroelectric plants in Vermont some of which have been in operation for over 100 years. Dorothy Schnure, spokesperson for GMP, is quoted in the May-June 2015 issue of Vermont Magazine: “They …

provide our customers with clean cost effective and incredibly reliable electricity”.

Too bad the State of Vermont’s accounting methods for renewable energy eliminated hydropower from consideration thus creating a huge opportunity for highly subsidized and less reliable renewable energy sources.

We need a plan! We need a coordinated effort at the state and local level to best utilize all of the energy sources available to us; especially hydroelectric, the original renewable energy source.

There is time. GMP says we won’t need any new energy sources for 5 years. Also, in 5 years new transmission lines are proposed to make transmitting this energy to the areas where it is needed more efficient.

Dustin Lang, Swanton

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