Shumlin mulling a new power corridor from Canada through Vermont to southern New England

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.

3 thoughts on “Shumlin mulling a new power corridor from Canada through Vermont to southern New England

  1. Bob,
    Perhaps we could seriously engage in and subsidize increased energy efficiency.

    There would be MUCH less need for expensive HVDC lines on thousands of steel structure 80 to 135 tall marching in straight lines over the hills.

  2. New Hampshire residents are campaigning to stop the “Northern Pass” power lines to bring Hydro Quebec power through the White Mountains to southern NH. Perhaps we could route the NH power through Vermont instead, since VT must build new transmission lines in any case if Vermont Yankee closes.

  3. The governor is not telling the whole story.
    The governor SAYS he is for low electric rates, but his unwise pushing for subsidized, tax sheltered, high cost power systems proves something else.
    His pushing for highly visible, noisy, expensive, variable, intermittent wind energy on ridge lines and expensive variable, intermittent solar energy on roofs and meadows will raise electric rates, lower living standards, reduce economic growth and increase unemployment.
    Hydro Quebec’s facilities will be required to balance the wind and solar energy AND to supply power when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine (low-cost energy storage has not been invented yet).
    That means HQ will have to operate its hydro plants as balancing plants for which it will charge a fee as Norway and Sweden charge a fee to Denmark, which has the highest electric rates in Europe, France has the lowest.
    It would be far less expensive, much more economical and less technically challenging for Vermont to augment its energy purchases from HQ WITHOUT wasting scarce funds to build out wind and solar facilities.
    It would be far less expensive and much more economical to build 60% efficient, gas-fired, combined cycle gas turbine plants to produce electricity.
    Such plants could be up to 85% efficient, if used to supply not only electricity but also community/district heating and cooling, as widely practiced in Europe.
    Misguiding thinkers in Montpelier need to wake up to reality and stop playing politics with Vermont’s future.

    Over the past 10 years, the subsidies for wind turbine facility owners have become so excessive that facilities are built in marginal wind areas, as on most Vermont ridge lines, or before facilities are built to transmit the wind energy to population centers, as in the Texas Panhandle, just to cash in on the lucrative subsidies. Here is a partial list of subsidies:

    – Federal grant for 30% of the total project cost which also applies to Spanish, Danish, German and Chinese wind turbines thus creating jobs in those nations instead of the US. These nations would not dream to have such a measure benefitting US wind turbine companies.

    – Federal accelerated depreciation allowing the entire project to be written off in five years which is particularly beneficial to wealthy, high-income people looking for additional tax shelters.

    – Federal production credit of $0.022/kWh of wind energy produced. The justification provided by proponents: Wind energy is CO2-free whereas fossil energy is not. This study shows the EXTRA CO2 emitted due to the inefficient operation of the balancing facillity to accommodate wind energy to the grid (compared to the facility being base-loaded) is about equal to the CO2 the wind energy was meant to reduce.

    – Owners of wind turbine facilities receive Renewable Energy Certificates which they can sell on the open market. The RECs are subsequently bought by polluting companies that find it less expensive to buy the RECs than clean up their pollution.

    – State legislatures are pressured to provide increasingly greater state incentives to politically well-connected renewables vendors, developers, financial entities and high-income future wind facility owners.

    – State legislatures and state government agencies are pressured to pave the regulatory ways to essentially circumvent state environmental and quality of life laws. Pro-forma hearings, usually required by law, are held to create a semblance of democratic process but effectively are rubber-stamp approvals of pre-ordained decisions.

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