By Guy Page
Barton is the latest town to face an electricity rate increase due to a planned solar farm.
According to the June 28 Chronicle, a weekly newspaper for the Northeast Kingdom, Barton Electric Department’s rates will increase as much as 2.6% if the utility is forced by state law and regulators to pay 19.3 cents per kilowatt hour to Aldrich Lane Solar. The average wholesale price for power is estimated at 7-9 cents /kwh.
As reported in recent Statehouse Headliners, the local water and light departments of Enosburg and Northfield both face large rate hikes to pay for high-priced power from local multi-megawatt solar farms.
In related news, wind power developer David Blittersdorf plans to build two 358-ft. high turbines on Kidder Hill in Newport, according to a June 27 filing with the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (PUC), formerly the Public Service Board. In July 6 coverage of this story, the Newport Daily Express reported that Vermont Electric Co-op – Vermont’s second largest utility – lost $500,000 over six months in 2016 because of insufficient grid capacity to move power from the Lowell and Sheffield wind farms. VEC couldn’t move the power, but still had to purchase it, per state law. It could be worse – California ratepayers are actually paying Nevada to accept their excess solar power production, the L.A. Times reports.
Too bad Vermont and California utilities can’t just cheaply store excess power until it is needed. Unfortunately, efficient, cost-effective, grid-scale battery storage of intermittent wind and solar power does not yet exist.
Consumer preference to ‘drive’ CO2 reductions
In a decision with ramifications for Vermont’s CO2-intensive transportation sector, Volvo said this week it plans to go “all-electric”. Every new model introduced by the Swedish high-end car maker will be either completely or partially electric.
The tech website Wired explains Volvo’s decision:
- Hands-free operated cars – the Next Big Thing in the automotive world – are coming soon and they will be electric. Ford plans to release a model by 2021. (Vermont’s aging, environmentally-conscious Baby Boomers are expected to welcome the alternative to surrendering their drivers’ licenses, and their adult children will heave a sigh of relief that Mom and Dad won’t actually be driving anymore.)
- European regulators are cracking down on diesel as a “green” alternative in light of the Volkswagen diesel emissions falsification scandal. For this and other regulatory reasons, builders everywhere are trending electric.
- Electric cars are cool, so high-end users (Volvo drivers) want them. And the mid-range market is watching and waiting. As tech improves, volume grows, and prices plummet – all expected – EVs will match internal combustion in quality and price. A FF-equivalent car battery is expected to be market-ready by about 2025, a U.S. DOE researcher told me last year.
What does all this mean for Vermont lawmakers? As transportation trends electric, more Vermont drivers will want electric cars. Transportation sector emissions appear likely to decrease as a consequence of consumer choice. It should be unnecessary to apply the cattle prod of carbon taxation, or other forceful measures.
Burlington Emergency Shelter founder Svitavsky to run for U.S. Senate
The founder of the Burlington Emergency Shelter announced this week he will run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Bernie Sanders, according to a July 6 VPR report.
Jon Svitavsky, 59, of Bridport, said he will run as a Democrat. Svitavsky founded the BES (now operating under the name Anew) on North Street in the early 1980’s. He said he was recruited by a group called Organizing for Democrats for the 2018 election.
VT legal pot lobby outspends opponents seven-fold
The supporters of marijuana legalization outspent legalization opponents $44,474 – $6116 in the 2017 session of the Vermont Legislature, says a July 4 VT Digger report. The Marijuana Policy Project paid $44,474 for lobbyists. Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) paid $3956 for lobbyists and $2140 for radio advertising. Figures for both groups may climb when spending for the June 21 special session is reported.
Although legalization failed this year, but supporters contend it is sure to pass next year – a presumption disputed by SAM and a group of the state’s police chiefs, who say many serious public health and safety questions remain unanswered.
Workplace laws passed by 2017 Legislature
See the Vermont Legislature website for a list of all 2017 bills passed into law. See past State House Headliners columns on www.medium.com for laws affecting energy and criminal justice. Workplace laws include:
- Act 18 (S.69) repeals a provision of Vermont law that permits an employer who is required to withhold wages for out-of-state child support to forward withheld wages to the VT Office of Child Support instead of to the out-of-state jurisdiction.
- Act 21 (H.136) requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s pregnancy-related condition, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Effective 1/2018.
- Act 37 (H.462) prohibits an employer from requiring, requesting, or coercing an employee to provide a social media account username or password, or to present or divulge social media content to the employer, or add the employer to his or her list of contacts for a social media account. Some exemptions apply.
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and the Church at Prison.