Only weeks after Green Mountain Power issued a press release that featured a meteorologist blaming a snowstorm on climate change, CEO Mary Powell echoed the same alarmist rhetoric, this time for the company’s energy plan.
On Tuesday, GMP announced the filing of its 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Public Utilities Commission. The plan, which is required to be filed with the state every three years, outlines the company’s power distribution objectives for the next decade.
In an apparent attempt to show GMP’s expanding commitment to fighting climate change by reducing fossil fuel-based energy sources, Powell seized upon recent weather conditions as justification for the company’s direction.
“We saw with the most recent snowstorm another severe impact of climate change, and we are seeing more events like this from climate change,” she said. Climate change is accelerating the need for us to act quickly with conviction and purpose. This IRP shows our commitment to doing that.”
Components of the IRP include “carbon-reducing initiatives” and meeting state Renewable Energy Standards,” which are green energy quota checkpoints utilities must meet at various intervals over the next decades. According to Vermont’s standards, the state is next trying to get to 75 percent renewable power from its utilities by 2032.
“We are adopting new, clean, distributed-energy technologies on both sides of the meter and, together with our customers and Vermont energy companies, changing the way energy is delivered. Vermont is at the forefront of this work nationally and every day more are following our lead,” Powell said.
According to the announcement, GMP also will be helping customers transition away from “higher cost, carbon-laden resources for heating and transportation,” which it says are the largest contributors to “climate-carbon pollution.”
The utility will be offering programs for electric vehicle charging stations and battery storage, even while industry pressure mounts to end federal subsidies for the financially struggling EV industry.
Powell’s global warming urgency echoes statements meteorologist Roger Hill said in a previous release regarding snow storms.
The IRP will be reviewed by the Public Utility Commission, and public hearings also will be scheduled to gain public input. The plan can be read online here.
Todd Meyers, a spokesperson for First Energy, which encompasses 10 energy utilities across six states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, said this kind of rhetoric is becoming the norm as states across the nation develop their own Renewable Energy Standards.
He told True North that New Jersey, Maryland and other states — 29 states in all — are enacting these standards. Once they do, regardless of the higher costs to ratepayers, utilities must follow the law.
“It may be [costlier], but if that becomes the law of the land, that’s the law of the land,” Meyers said. “We need to make sure that the mix of fuel that we are purchasing is proportional with the law.”
He said the argument from green energy proponents is that it will be costlier in the long run if cheaper carbon-based energies remain the status-quo.
“The environmentalists will tell you there are so many social costs,” he said. “Coal may be cheaper to burn, but [there are] respiratory costs, the costs to the environment and everything else. You are not really capturing any of those costs when you are just talking about the kilowatt hours produced.”
Indeed, First Energy also is on the green energy bandwagon. Its 2016 sustainability report includes rhetoric similar to that of GMP in Vermont.
“We’re also taking aggressive steps to improve the environmental performance of our business in the years ahead,” it states. “We’ve established a goal to reduce CO2 emissions companywide by at least 90 percent below 2005 levels by 2045 — exceeding our nation’s goal of achieving economy-wide reductions of 80 percent or more by 2050.”
Annette Smith, director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, called GMP’s messaging “a typical PR pitch about how they are addressing climate change and the ratepayers.”
In November, an anonymous letter sent to Smith from an apparent industry insider alleged that GMP and the Department of Public Service under Commissioner June Tierney have put their own interests before ratepayers during rate-hike hearings. The letter also alleged the use of accounting tricks to hide the true rate increase and investments in unwise technologies that may further cost the ratepayers.
Those allegations have since been supported by Brian Winn, former director of finance and economics for the Department of Public Service.