Angwin on Energy: What the Seabrook nuclear power contract means for Vermont

by Meredith Angwin

Meredith Angwin

I am delighted to see a good power purchase agreement for Vermont, and since I am pro-nuclear, I am glad to see power coming reliably from another nuclear facility. I don’t consider the difference in price to be substantial: I think Vermont Yankee could probably match that price, especially if Vermont Yankee can sell the rest of their power at market prices.

In regard to Emerson Lynn’s description of the “negotiated deal” with HydroQuebec, the only deal I know about with HydroQuebec replaces the power from current HydroQuebec contracts that end in 2016.

The HydroQuebec deal does not replace any Vermont Yankee power, to my knowledge. This Seabrook contract also only replaces some of the power from Vermont Yankee. There is still a gap in Vermont’s power supply for the future.

In other words, some of the uncertainties have not been removed, and power prices are still capable of rising if Vermont Yankee is not in the mix. Much power is bought “at the market” and taking low-priced supplies out of the mix will affect power prices.

The Seabrook purchase news is basically good news, and very hopeful for Vermont’s future. However, at another level, this news is also troubling. It shows a NIMBY attitude that I don’t like. “We hate nuclear plants in-state, but we are delighted with cheap power from out-of-state nuclear plants.”

A friend of mine asked if Vermont is going to end up with hydro plants and nuclear plants lined up on our borders, in neighboring countries and states. They would provide Vermont’s baseload supply, while Vermont builds nothing by wind turbines. I am sorry to say this could happen.

One of the many problems with this model is that the power plants lined up on our borders will pay taxes and fees to their own states or countries, not to Vermont. They will employ people in Canada or on the New Hampshire seacoast, not Vermonters. In addition, the power grid will still have to adjust to the new sources of power, certainly raising some transmission costs.

So, in conclusion, this is great news, but doesn’t mean we don’t need Vermont Yankee.