by Rob Roper
Governor Peter Shumlin concluded his Monday conference call to the press with the statement, “The best way to create jobs in Vermont is to have low power costs. There’s just no doubt about that in my mind. Lower power costs produce jobs and give us a manufacturing advantage that is helpful to our future.”
This is a surprising conviction coming from the guy who has pursued eliminating Vermont Yankee and it’s 4.9 cent/killowat hour power (not to mentions 600 good paying jobs) with an Ahab-like obsession.
There is no plan for how to deal with the power loss if Yankee shuts its doors in 2012, but Shumlin, who was attending the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the time of the press call, offered a vision for a potential solution.
“Quebec and Labrador,” is where Shumlin is looking. “They’re both building new hydro — significant new hydro – quickly, and they’re investing millions to get it done. At the same time that they’re doing that, it’s clear that we don’t have reliable transmission lines to carry that power to New England at the scale of which they are producing it and can’t use it themselves.”
Asked if he was talking about building new lines through Vermont to service Southern New England, Shumlin did his best to duck the question. “Instead of saying, hey, here’s where the corridor should be, we should have a plan as to where the corridor should be. What makes the most sense.” But it appears Shumlin is thinking Vermont.
The governor has to know that this kind of project, if history is a guide, would meet serious local opposition. We just need to look to our neighbor New Hampshire to witness the controversy and push-back to the Northern Pass, which would just cut 40 new miles of right-of-way and widen parts of an existing 140-mile power corridor.
But, supposing the environmental and cultural hurdles could be overcome, the advantage of hosting a new power corridor for Vermont would be, according to the governor, “Whoever is the transmitter of that power is going to negotiate a preferential price in exchange for hosting that corridor.”
Meredith Angwin of the Energy Education Project pointed out, however, that, “Vermont Yankee puts $100 million a year into the Vermont economy (three economic firms did the studies for this) and $10 million into Vermont taxes. Does [Governor Shumlin] think we can charge the Canadians $110 million for the use of these new lines?”
Furthering her argument, Angwin said, “If you go to the Hydro Quebec website and look at their annual reports, they are proud that they export 10% of their power to the U. S., but make 40% of their profits from the export power. We are already underwriting the power bills of the entire province of Quebec.,.. Canadian power, despite what Shumlln says, is a better deal for Canada than it is for us.”
“But it’s clear that hydro power from Canada must be a part of our energy future,” argues Shumlin. “What we should be looking at as a region is this simple fact: the Canadians are going to be producing cheap, renewable hydro power that can work as a reliable load for when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.”
Angwin counters, we would be better off “using existing transmission lines to an existing power plant with a small footprint.” That would be Vermont Yankee.