Shumlin awards solar deal to firm of campaign supporter

Two AllSun Trackers manufactured by AllEarth Renewables at a home in Alburgh. AllEarth Renewables photo

Two AllSun Trackers manufactured by AllEarth Renewables at a home in Alburgh. AllEarth Renewables photo

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced what could be the largest solar project in Vermont history Wednesday, teaming up with AllEarth Renewables to build up to 5 megawatts worth of solar trackers in connection with state buildings.

David Blittersdorf

David Blittersdorf

Shumlin’s longtime political ally and contributor, David Blittersdorf, is the founder and CEO of AllEarth Renewables, but the Shumlin administration says politics had nothing to do with this decision. Bids for the project were initially submitted in 2011, and the administration says Tropical Storm Irene waylaid the project. Due to a communications error, administration officials said they could not provide the bids until Thursday.

“This contract was awarded to the best bidder after a competitive process,” said Louis Porter, Shumlin’s secretary of Civil and Military Affairs. “Responses to this one were reviewed by a team of state employees … in addition to the Buildings and General Services contracting staff. This agreement will save taxpayer money, while furthering our goal of increasing the use of renewable energy.”

The Shumlin administration estimates that a final deal, which has not yet been signed, will save the state $1 million over a 20-year period. AllEarth Renewables spokesman Andrew Savage said Thursday that the company would net no more than $5 million for the project and defended the selection of the company.

“Who else in Vermont would you propose to do this volume of solar manufacturing and installation with local work?” Savage said.

The 5 megawatts of solar will be broken into 10 separate projects to take advantage of the state’s net-metering program, which requires utilities to credit renewable energy projects that are less than 500 kilowatts in capacity for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) they produce. The hitch is that a net-metering project must be tied to a property that consumes energy for the credits to be worth anything.

“We will be entered into a net metering agreement for solar power to ensure we hook up 10 of our state buildings to solar power to help lead the way as we make the transformation from fossil fuels, coal and other fuels that are killing our planet to solar that is clean, green renewable power,” Shumlin said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The new solar projects will net meter from seven correctional facilities across the state, the Pavilion building that houses the governor’s offices, a state office building in Brattleboro and state offices in Bennington. The solar trackers won’t necessarily be located at those facilities, but they will be financially connected to them for net-metering purposes. The administration has yet to iron out the specifics of siting the trackers.

Under Vermont law, a utility must credit a net-metering client at least 20 cents for every kWh the client produces up until the point when those credits completely offset a client’s energy bill. To learn more about the state’s net-metering law, read here.

Since AllEarth will own and install the trackers, AllEarth will get the bulk of these total credits in the form of cash, said Emily Montgomery, a staff attorney for the Department of Buildings and General Services.

The state signed a large, umbrella agreement with AllEarth in October 2012, but the value of that deal will come from power purchase and lease agreements.

For all of these solar projects, whether they are on state land or not, the state will keep 5 percent of the credit, thus lowering its energy bill by up to 5 percent. AllEarth will earn 95 percent of the energy credit in dollars.

“We pay our utility bill as normal, but then there is a credit, and the state pays 95 percent of that credit amount to AllEarth,” Montgomery said.

If the trackers are installed on state land, the state would get to keep an extra 5 percent of the credits, saving up to 10 percent on its energy bill for a given facility in a year.

The deal is mutually beneficial for the state and for AllEarth. The state is providing 10 entities for AllEarth to net meter from, and, in return, AllEarth will give the state a cut of the credit. This type of agreement is more common among entities with no tax appetite than it is for private businesses that can take advantage of tax credits.

The five-member evaluation committee for the state, which included Deputy Secretary of Administration Michael Clasen, recommended AllEarth because the company “was the most qualified due to their ability to provide approximately 60 kilowatt projects and 150 kilowatt projects.”

During Shumlin’s 2012 political campaign, AllEarth contributed $4,000 under two separate legal entities. The state’s maximum allowable donation per corporation is $2,000, and AllEarth Renewables Inc. and AllEarth Services LLC both contributed that amount. Blittersdorf also contributed $2,000. In 2010, the year Shumlin was first elected to the governor’s office, Blittersdorf contributed $8,000 to Shumlin via four different limited liability companies. The renewables entrepreneur also funded a $20,000 issue ad campaign that blasted Brian Dubie, Shumlin’s Republican opponent, for his support of Vermont Yankee.

This story was updated at noon Thursday to clarify the amount of money AllEarth Renewables stands to net from the project.

Andrew Stein

Comments

  1. Coleman Dunnar :

    So for $6000 in contributions I can buy a state contract that returns $10 million wow, who do I send my check to? “but the Shumlin administration says politics had nothing to do with this decision.”
    “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time” Governor -It’s time to stop insulting the public.

    • Matthew Hall :

      If you want, you can send the money to me… I’ll make sure to take care of it. :-)

  2. Seems to me, based on AllEarth Renewables extensive experience in the types of projects the State is looking for, the State couldn’t have chosen a better company to deal with. Just check out the town of Hinesburg’s Solar Farm – http://www.allearthrenewables.com/assets/Uploads/Case-Studies/Case-Study-HinesburgV8.pdf

    Then there’s Vermont Business Magazine’s list of Best Places to Work in 2013 with AllEarth Renewables coming in at #3. So, a Vermont company, doing good by its employees and making solar deals across the country. Yes, I think they are qualified to make this deal work with the state.

    • Fred Woiogmaster :

      Mr. Farnham: “Yes I think they are qualified to make this deal work with the state.”

      Your assertion(s) might be entirely correct.

      There was a time, however, when the semblance of ‘conflict of interest’in and of itself was sufficient to cause pause. That is no longer true, in part because of the huge amounts of money being poured into political campaigns.

      The inordinately powerful influence of money in politics is contributing to the disintegration of the democratic process.

      Friends help friends; a universal truth. For the sake of democracy, when public money is involved the process must be an open book. Is it?

  3. Matt Fisken :

    “The 5 megawatts of solar will be broken into 10 separate projects to take advantage of the state’s net-metering program, which requires utilities to credit renewable energy projects that are less than 500 kilowatts in capacity for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) they produce. The hitch is that a net-metering project must be tied to a property that consumes energy for the credits to be worth anything. … The solar trackers won’t necessarily be located at those facilities, but they will be financially connected to them for net-metering purposes.”

    Completely ignoring the appearance of conflict of interest and crony capitalism here, this seems ridiculously exploitative of state law which was designed (15 years ago) to encourage individuals to install solar panels on their home or business, at a time when it was much more cost prohibitive. I don’t think the law was ever intended to allow commercial entities to cash in on the net metering credit by using state buildings or lands to host multiple massive arrays. This is like taking 100 items through the 10 items or less line by splitting up your cart into 10 transactions. Instead of taking time away from your fellow shoppers, this takes money away from “regular” customers/members who end up paying for the net metering credits.

    “For all of these solar projects, whether they are on state land or not, the state will keep 5 percent of the credit, thus lowering its energy bill by up to 5 percent.”

    When are we going to start passing laws that encourage SAVING energy as opposed to ones that enable the deployment of over-sized, cheap crap with limited lifespans and dubious life cycles to take advantage of subsidies/credits which line the pockets of the folks who are already doing very well thanks to the net metering law?

    Will we figure out that the more complex we make the grid by tacking on inverter after inverter, the sooner reliable electricity will become a thing of the past? I hope so.

    • Don Peterson :

      Blittersdorf offered the Town of Lowell 10% off their energy bill, not 5%.

    • Hilton Dier :

      Every other news story I have read on this says 500 kilowatts total capacity, not 5 megawatts. And this phrase: “500 kilowatts in capacity for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) they produce.” is meaningless. Each news story garbles the numbers in its own special way.

      As for the financials, I suppose the state could have winkled another 5% or so out of the deal. Apparently it does get 10% off for any installations on state land. The problem is that for the state to own the systems the gov would have had to wring money out of the legislature to finance it, and then they’d be leaving the tax credits and depreciation on the table. The other problem is that there’s not a lot of profit margin in these systems for the installer to give away.

      By the way, the modules are warranted for 25 years and the inverters for at least ten; up to 20 with an extended warranty.

      I’m totally into promoting efficiency and I do think we should spend a lot more on that. Still, when you’ve pared off every kWh you can, the remaining power still has to come from somewhere. When (not if) fracked gas rises to its true cost of production, people on our 40% gas dependent grid will be glad for some fixed price solar electricity.

      • Matt Fisken :

        Hilton,

        It’s 10 separate installations of 500 kW (0.5 MW) each. That’s how they get the 5 MW total.

        “And this phrase: “500 kilowatts in capacity for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) they produce.” is meaningless.”

        Without the context of the rest of the sentence, I agree. Andrew also could have said, “the state’s net-metering program … requires utilities to credit renewable energy projects that are less than 500 kilowatts in capacity for [the electricity] they produce” which may have been less confusing.

        “When (not if) fracked gas rises to its true cost of production, people on our 40% gas dependent grid will be glad for some fixed price solar electricity.”

        I believe when the 2011 CEP was published the natural gas generation of electricity for New England was 40%. At times today it was 60% and rarely drops below 50%. http://isoexpress.iso-ne.com/guest-hub So, in a sense, there is already a “virtual” natural gas pipeline connected to every Vermont home and business on the electric grid. That gas is simply being converted to electrons and transmitted by power line (with losses) before it is used by a customer, often for the same applications NG is used. Of course, we know there are also losses associate with NG pipelines, so it’s anyone’s guess which method of utilizing NG generates more waste.

        While I agree that the price of natural gas is currently deflated and is due for a correction, feeding relatively expensive PV electricity onto the grid so that it can be gobbled up by wasteful heating coils, air conditioners, and over-illuminated beverage coolers will never make much sense. It’s like buying a McDonalds hamburger with a Morgan Silver Dollar.

        What it boils down to is that the net metering law was a response to the expense of storing PV electricity. If you can install twice as many grid-tied panels for the price of an off-the-grid setup, obviously the latter is a much “sexier” array to show your neighbors how green you are.

        When the natural gas supply starts to drop and we are left with intermittent and noisy (power quality) generators like solar and wind, people who are not tied to the grid will be glad they invested a little extra in batteries. You can’t get that feeder credit if grid can no longer operate reliably.

  4. Annette Smith :

    What happens with the RECs? Apparently Green Lantern and NRG (partnering with GMP on solar in Rutland) are selling the RECs out of state for those projects, which means they are not really renewable energy for Vermonters.

    It would be helpful to the public understanding of the kinds of deals that are being made to do a more indepth review of the various solar deals that are being made in cities and towns around the state.

    Are Vermonters investing in energy that genuinely meets the definition of renewable?

    Are these good deals? Are some better than others?

  5. patrick cashman :

    You forgot “Georgia Mountain Community Wind LLC” of which Blittersdorf is the majority owner. $4,000 in 2012; $2,000 to Shumlin and $2,000 to the Vt Democratic party per followthemoney.org.

    • Patrick Cashman :

      My mistake, I took a look at the Secretary of State Corporations search to see what other companies are associated with Mr. Blittersdorf and bounced those off followthemoney.org. Found a few more.

      Chittenden County Solar Partners – $2,000 to Mr. Shumlin.
      Green Acres Solar Partners – $2,000 to Mr. Shumlin.
      Renewable Energy Vermont – $2,000 to Mr. Shumlin.

      And while those are specific to 2012, another fun one is “Vermont Dragonfly, LLC”. Now inactive, it appears to have existed only for a single year and the product of the corporation appears to consist solely of another $2,000 donation to Mr. Shumlin.

      It should probably also be mentioned that Mr. Shumlin is not the sole beneficiary of Mr. Blittersdorf’s largesse, others just in 2012 under Mr. Blittersdorf’s own name include:
      Cassandra Gekas
      Beth Pearce
      William Sorrell
      Phil Baruth
      Doug Hoffer
      Ann Cummings
      Vince Illuzi (investing in both sides of the Auditor’s race)
      Ginny Lyons
      Mark Macdonald
      Dave Zuckerman
      Margaret Cheney
      Janet Ancel
      Christopher Bray
      Rebecca Ellis
      Tim Jerman
      Mike Yantachka
      Sarah Buxton

      • patrick cashman :

        The best part is the business description off Dragonfly from their corporate filing is “Anything Lawful”.
        The arrogance of the born-wealthy 1% is astounding.

        • Keith Stern :

          The born wealthy, huh? I can’t think of anyone more arrogant than our senator from New York. Then again how many politicians are genuinely humble when they are in private?

    • Don’t forget the $20,000 Blittersdorf gave to Green Mountain Future in 2010, the Democratic Governors Association front organization that ran negative ads against Brian Dubie.

      Or the unknown amount of money Blittersdorf has funneled into VPIRG to turn that organization into what is essentially the lobbying arm of his companies.

      • Keith Stern :

        AND THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

  6. Craig Kneeland :

    Great opportunity for State facilities connected to GMP. All other customers and facilities are prohibited from participating because of a PBS rule limiting small utilities ability to connect no more than 4% of that utility’s peak demand. As pointed out correctly by our VT Cooperatives, connection of renewables through net metering ends up being a burden on the ordinary rate payer who has no opportunity to connect renewables.

    It is distressing to learn from this announcement that a new definition of “meter” is required to make the credits work for those facilities that use less KWH than the installed solar panels produce. In other words, a small state office may qualify for credits because “their” panels are installed at a larger facility, perhaps in another town. With Smart Metering meter readings can be easily combined. A new rules change will be needed to make this work.

    Since so much has changed and re-interpreted since this renewable contract was first released it would seem reasonable that bidders should have another opportunity to bid. It also seems reasonable that small towns served by utilities other than GMP should be allowed to participate. Combining meter readings for “bargain billing” is a big game changer for every ratepayer.

  7. Keith Stern :

    We can continue to cover our fields with ugly black panels and chop off mountain tops and cover them with turbines. VT will be a beautiful state to visit but at least we are doing our part to stop the scientifically proven false global warming problem. Since in reality the earth is actually cooling the solar panel will work as heat collectors and help alleviate the effects of global cooling when it starts here.
    Why is it so difficult to understand climate change? Maybe because they can’t get rich off from that because it occurs naturally.

  8. Randy Koch :

    The Artful Dodger strikes again! Blittersdorf, chirping “quid pro quo! quid pro quo!”, gets to use public property as a cash cow while the public gets to play the role of Jerry Dodge.

  9. Jim Christiansen :

    Andrew,

    Do we know the total cost of this project?

    Determining the ROI received by a friend of the governor for a State contract could help determine if this is a good deal for Vermonters, or just a good deal among friends at the expense of our electric rates.

    Thanks.

  10. Duncan Kilmartin :

    Two stories in today’s Vermont Digger, the Mylan Technologies end around Constitutional legislative oversight, and the Bittendorf/Shumlin solar scam, illustrate a concept I have been repeating ad nauseum for the last 14 years since the Champion Land Deal in Essex County:

    “In Vermont, all risks are placed on the backs of Vermont taxpayers and ratepayers by the VERY government that is supposed to protect them.”

    That is especially true in the utility field, where the friends of Shumlin, are made multimillionaires on the backs of the increasingly impoverished Vermonters, e.g. the sellout of 70% of Vermont’s electrical and 100% of Vermont’s natural gas utilities to Gaz Metro/Green Mountain Power a/k/a the Quebec Government’s pension fund; passing a law so that Bittendorf did not have to wait 5 or 10 years for tax credits, but got 50% in cash from taxpayers immediately.

    “Unique partnerships” are simply another way of Shumlin and his cronies saying:

    “Evade the Constitution; evade the checks and balances of the three branches of government; make my friends and political contributors millionaires; claim it is too help working Vermonters; SCREW AND ENSLAVE THE HARDWORKING VERMONTERS WITH UNBEARABLE TAX AND UTILITY RATE BURDENS!”

    Frankly, this Administration reminds me of my Sunday School lessons about Pharoah and Moses, with the enslaved Jews building the Pyramids for their masters.

    An out-of-stater, who is familiar with Vermont politics asked me recently, “When are the people of Vermont going to rise up and revolt?”

    Unfortunately I do not see a Moses or a Martin Luther King in Vermont who is standing up and proclaiming: “Let my people go!”

    In case you missed it, and unfortunately only VtBiz published the 2012 Census piece on “average weekly wages” state by state and county by county. Digger should reprint it.

    The average weekly wage in Vermont is in the bottom third of the nation, and even Alabama has a higher weekly wage.

    Guess what? Chittenden County, overall our most wealthy county with the highest weekly wage in Vermont does not reach the national average of $1000 per week! Who would have ever thought that?

    That’s right folks, no county in Vermont reaches the national average.

    Take a look at the Mylan scam where the dismal science economists for the Shumlin administration are doing work at taxpayer expense to create unreliable economic projections to justify an unconstitutional evasion of legislative oversight to enrich a private developer, all in the name of 190 jobs over two decades, with the taxpayer carrying all the risk. And check the dates: the St. Alban’s study was done last winter while the legislature was in session. The “emergency crisis” is a fabrication…this deal didn’t just happen.

    Which brings me back to the Champion Land Deal of 1999/2000, brought to you by Darby Bradley of the Land Trust, Gustav Seelig of the Housing and Conservation Board, and Governor Howard Dean.

    Here was the written promise they signed in a letter to the legislative leaders: for $4.5 million in taxpayer money, the Champion land deal would guarantee a new sustainable logging/wood-product/forestry industry for Essex County, and would be the economic engine for the poorest county in the State.

    What has happened in Essex County since 2000: Ethan Allen is down from 300 employees to about 70; the mills across the river in NH are all gone; Wilhelm Merck owner of the Champion Lands sold his holdings to the Plum Group for a 370% profit in 9-10 years, not a bad rate of return, but the taxpayer got nothing but an increase in taxes.

    The impact of that sale on the average Vermont taxpayer is enormous because of three factors: the sale price raised the so-called market value of all forest land by at least 300% in all of Essex County; because the education tax is on auto-pilot, taxes increased; the Vermont property taxpayer, who is not in “current use” is paying 80% of the property taxes on these lands. Think about that for a moment. In addition to paying property taxes on your home, you are paying in those property taxes and other taxes, 80% of the tax bill for those in forest use to supposedly insure the economic vibrancy of Essex County’s working folks.

    My take on the Champion Land Deal: “Howard Dean, Darby Bradly and Gustav Seelig conned us into taking $4.5 million of working Vermonter’s hard earned dollars to buy Domincan sugar to put in the economic engine’s gas tank of Essex County.”

    My take on the “Mylan/private developer/can’t wait” deal: another Champion Land deal where the taxpayer gets screwed.

    Why do I think my prediction is 100% guaranteed to come true in contrast with the taxpayer supported state economist dismal batting average: the evidence of government failure to be an economic engine, much less a stimulus, is overwhelmingly indisputable.

    Bottom line folks: If you connect all the dots, the Shumlin administration is going one better than the Dean administration in producing a slave plantation of Vermont.

    Isn’t it time for working Vermonters to stand up, throw off the chains of government enslavement, and join the historic chorus started by Moses: “LET MY PEOPLE GO!”

    • Doug Hoffer :

      The figures you cited on wages do not square with official data.

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment & Wage data for 2012, the median hourly wage in Vermont was $16.61 compared to $14.40 in Alabama.

      The average hourly wage was $21.00 in Vermont and $19.01 in Alabama.

      The average annual wage was $43,680 in Vermont and $39,550 in Alabama.

      A VT Biz article in Sept. 2012 reported that the Census ACS median household income in Vermont was $52,776, while Alabama was $41,415 (the U.S. was $50,502).

      The poverty rate in Vermont was 11.5% and 19% in Alabama (U.S. was 15.9%).

  11. Calling a Spade a Spade:

    The January 2010 Vermont State Agency Energy Plan, SAEP, shows 8,200,000 sq ft of state buildings consumed 1,150,000 x 1 million Btu in 2009, or 140,244 Btu/sq ft in 2009.
    http://bgs.vermont.gov/sites/bgs/files/pdfs/BGS-VTStateEnergyPlan.pdf

    NEW energy efficient buildings would consume about 25,000 Btu/sq ft/yr, or LESS for heating, cooling and electricity.

    The SAEP also shows 24% of the energy was for electricity and 76% for HVAC.

    (0.24 x 1,150,000 x 1 million Btu)/(3,413 Btu/kWh) = 81 million kWh, or 81 GWh

    The State of Vermont consumes 81/5600 = 14.5% of all electricity in Vermont!!

    Blittersdorf;’s 5 MW of 2-axis trackers will:

    – be located in various places not necessarily near the designated buildings; location to be determined later.

    – be grid-connected

    – cost about $25 million

    – produce about 5,000 kW x 8,760 hr/yr x Capacity factor 0.18 = 7,884,000 kWh/yr,

    – which will be sold to utilities at 20c/kWh (per Vermont RE law for solar) for $1,576,800/yr for each of 20 years.

    This energy could have been bought by Vermont utilities for about 5 c/kWh from the grid, i.e., the State of Vermont will pay 20-5 = 15 c/kWh to reimburse the utilities for their excess costs.

    The designated buildings are not actually connected to the trackers, but FINANCIALLY connected to the trackers.

    They are sort of like stooges to make the tax shelter “work” for the investors, and Vermont’s government is celebrating the event, and Vermont’s already-stressed tax payers and rate payers will be be paying extra for the multi-millionaire investors’ prosperous outcome.

    • Correction to above comment:

      Vermont’s government uses 81/5600 = 1.45% of all energy in Vermont.

      Without PV solar,

      The kWh/yr consumption of each designated building would have been bought by the state from GMP for about 14 c/kWh, assuming the commercial rate. GMP’s energy mix cost is about 5.5 c/kWh, The difference is the GMP other costs, overhead and profit.

      With PV solar,

      GMP will be paying 20 c/kWh for the fed-to-the-grid solar energy to Blittersdorf and Co, and the state will either reimburse GMP for the 20-14 = 6 c/kWh difference, or for the 20-5.5 = 14.5 c/kWh difference.

      The accounting is all somewhat murky.

      It would be democratic to provide a proper spreadsheet to the public, to lift the veil of crony-capitalism taking advantage of GW fears, and to show the various money flows and to whom over the 20-year period.

      Blittersdorf, as a prudent business person, must have made up such a spreadsheet and the DPS, etc., likely have copies of it.

      Shumlin crowing this is all part of going to 90% RE of ALL energy by 2050, not just electrical energy, appears to be a diversionary red herring.

      Sort of like the Spaniards invoking the Holy Cross, while taking the land and other resources from the natives.

  12. frank seawright :

    “This contract was awarded to the best bidder after a competitive process,”

    Wonder what made him the Best.

  13. Kelly Stettner :

    I hope that every single person who voted for Shumlin is PAYING ATTENTION…wake up when the next election cycle comes up!

  14. Tom Pelham :

    Andrew….I bit more clarity on this deal would be helpful. Are there now separate meters for the Pavilion Bldg. and the other 9 facilities incorporated in this deal such that hard electric consumption data exists for each? Ms. Montgomery at BGS should have this information. This information is important in order to ascertain how much of AllEarth’s revenue will be “adder” revenue paid by GMP’s other rate payers and how much will be revenue from AllEarth’s selling into the grid any extra KWh’s above those used by these facilities, also paid by GMP’s other ratepayers. This deal appears quite different than the typical net metering project where there is a physical connection between the solar electric source and the entity consuming the electricity. In these situations it’s relatively easy to relate amounts generated, amounts consumed, the value of the “adder” and the value of excess generation. But here, given the potential for only a paper/financial connection between generation and consumption, such calculations are likely less transparent. Secondly, unlike the typical net metering projects, this deal doesn’t appear to help GMP lower the purchase of “dirty” power off the grid as the solar Kwh’s are not supplanting grid power at these facilities, but rather requires GMP (and its ratepayers) to simply by more expensive electricity from AllEarth.

    • Tom,

      You bring up a good point.

      The solar trackers will likely not be located near the buildings and will likely directly feed into the grid.

      The designated buildings may not have individual meters. It is less costly to have fewer meters by grouping buildings and metering them with one meter as a group.

      Will 100% of the production of the solar trackers be reimbursed at 20 c/kWh, or will it be the difference of the production minus what the buildings use? The current use of the buildings is bought from GMP at about 14 c/kWh, assuming commercial rates.

      If, in the future, the buildings will use less kWh due to EE, the difference, compensated at 20 c/kWh, would be greater, a benefit for Blittersdorf & Co.

      If that is the case, it would be an incentive for Blittersdorf to lobby for money for increased EE for these buildings, to increase the difference and his revenues.

      See my other comments in this string.

  15. Timothy MacLam :

    Gov. Shumlin can proudly wear the tag, “Governor for Sale or Lease” much as our Congress does. If he had ANY ethics at all he would have to hold out for more $$$.

    How many megawatts will it take to shine the light on this shifty, slick huckster so people can really see what he is all about?

    Democrats, run somebody else in 2014.

  16. In politics money buys access. Access is the payoff for money given to politicians. Our slippery governor is available to his contributors.Government is not for sale.It is bought and paid for already. Sad.

    Brian Flynn
    Craftsbury Common, Vt

    • Timothy MacLam :

      Money seems to be the only way to have access to the governor. He certainly does his best to avoid the rest of us.

      • David Dempsey :

        Timothy,
        Vermont needs a few hundred thousand voters that have your common sense and respect for the state to get our priorities back in line.

  17. Kevin Jones :

    While there is lots of room for improvement in Vermont’s flawed renewable energy policies this announcement by Governor Shumlin and his staff largely deserves our praise and support. State government should set a standard for businesses and individuals in taking on our climate challenge in a way that is compatible with the Vermont landscape and this announcement about the state committing to solar energy for state buildings is welcome news in that regard. Vermont’s net metering program is by far our most successful renewable energy policy and the State of Vermont’s use of this approach hopefully signals a long-term commitment to environmentally friendly distributed solar energy. In addition, as I understand the agreement between the State and AllEarth Renewables, the renewable energy credits (RECs) for this project by contract will not be sold out of state (unlike what Vermont’s utilities are currently doing with the ridgeline wind projects and standard offer projects) and thus these solar facilities will be a net addition to renewable generation in New England and will reduce Vermont’s carbon footprint.

    Furthermore, as long as the project was competitively bid it is hard to find fault with the winning bidder especially given that it is a Vermont company that has a record of producing a quality product. In addition, Buildings and General Services Commissioner Michael Obuchowski has during his decades in public service earned our trust and respect.

    This announcement is a win for the environment and a strong argument for why we don’t have to make short sighted compromises in meeting Vermonts long-term energy needs.

    • Kevin wrote:

      “State government should set a standard for businesses and individuals in taking on our climate challenge in a way that is compatible with the Vermont landscape and this announcement about the state committing to solar energy for state buildings is welcome news in that regard.”

      Thank you. That is the only news here.

      The only other issue I would raise pertains to: “solar manufacturing and installation with local work.”

      I assume this means the panels are Made in USA not China: better yet, that they are made in Vermont?

      • Willem Post :

        Ellington, the inverters are about $3500 for a 5kW system, often made in Germany.
        Panels are usually made in China, rarely in the US
        That means most of the rest of the parts is bric-a-brac readily available anywhere.
        Jobs? After it is installed almost no jobs for about 20 to 25 years.

        • Keith Stern :

          Jobs? Who cares about jobs? Not the liberals for sure.

          • Fred Woogmaster :

            Mr: Stern:

            Most of your comments appear to originate from a right/conservative bias, many of which sound like knee-jerk partisan responses.

            This particular comment, however, is absurd and of absolutely no value.

            Why do you find the need to contribute such drivel?

            Fred Woogmaster
            Independent

            I am a political Independent!

          • Keith Stern :

            A political independent huh? How many independents have you voted for? By definition an independent only votes for those who aren’t in a party.
            Tell me, do you vote for a balance of left and right thinking politicians? As long as you’re disclosing let’s hear the entire story.
            Let me disclose I choose a candidate’s record of accomplishment and integrity/ethics before anything else. I am proud to say I voted for Ross Perot twice because he was the one candidate who had the integrity and the ideas to make this country better. I also voted for Ralph Nader twice and donated to his campaign because he has the record of accomplishment that far exceeded the 2 major party candidates and has the integrity to do the right thing for the country and not play the usual political games.
            I will say that the liberals are placing their ideology ahead of the country’s best interests. They use fear and deception to accomplish their goals. They use the global warming myth to push their agenda of solar and wind power even though the net effect is job losses and a weakened economy. Yet the same liberals pushing that are approving a biomass plant in North Springfield that will be devastating to the environment because it will be only 30% efficient causing huge amounts of unnecessary pollution.

      • Patrick Cashman :

        Ms. Anderson,
        That’s a morally tenuous position. Just because you believe in a particular cause does not mean you should be willing to forgive any and all means used to advance that cause.
        There is a lot of money to be made in various causes, this being one example in which a very large donor to the Governor benefits considerably by being selected to advance a particular cause. Mr. Blittersdorf has also previously benefitted greatly from state policy decisions being made by elected officials he supports financially. For another example you may want to look to the no-bid contract awarded to Ms. Anya Rader-Wallack, another large donor to the Governor, in support of state healthcare efforts. Between donations from herself ($1,750), her husband and business partner ($500), and from their company Arrowhead Health Analytics ($2,000) they donated $4,250 to the governor’s campaign in 2010 alone. Outrage is definitely called for.

        • Fred Woogmaster :

          Mr. Cashman:

          “Mr. Blittersdorf has also previously benefitted greatly from state policy decisions being made by elected officials he supports financially.”

          I do not doubt that. Would you specify, please.

    • Matt Fisken :

      Kevin,

      Since you have installed net metered PV on your home, would you mind sharing some of your experiences? What company did you go with? How many kW of panels did you install? How many kWh/month do you generate? How many kWhs do you consume? How have your electricity consumption habits changed since installing your system?

      Thanks!

  18. Dexter Lefavour :

    …..and what is the real cost to VT taxpayers and electric rate payers? OUCH!

    add 5% to your electric bill for Efficiency VT

    pay who? State or AER? $0.20/kwhr + the difference between your rates and $0.20 if less than $0.20

    regressive taxation doing diddly for climate change

  19. Moshe Braner :

    This solar plan has nothing to do with state buildings. I’ll explain:

    If I were to set up a solar PV system feeding power into the grid, GMP would not pay me cash. It would only reduce, or eliminate, my bill. Thus it’s not really “net metering”, it is “zero plus metering”. And this rule is a disincentive for me to do that, since my electricity consumption is minimal. In other words, this rule is an incentive for waste, disincentive for conservation and efficiency.

    Now compare with this “state buildings” plan. The solar generation equipment will not be owned by the state, and not necessarily located on or near the state buildings. What’s the connection to the state buildings? Only a political connection.

    Moreover, if the reimbursement at higher-than-retail rates for this wholesale power is indeed going to be limited to the power used in the state buildings designated as “connected” to this project, that would be a disincentive to improve energy efficiency in those buildings. The opposite of what we need. Alternatively, if the reimbursement is not thus limited, why am I not allowed the same deal?

    A saner approach to encouraging renewable power is a feed-in tarrif like they have in Canada. Something above average wholesale rate but below retail rate, and not connected in any way to consumption by, for, on behalf of, or politically connected to, any entities.

    • Matt Fisken :

      Moshe gets it.

      As David Hallquist is quoted in another article (http://vtdigger.org/2013/07/10/tensions-rise-as-credits-for-solar-cut-into-utility-budgets/):

      “What’s really killing us are the large commercial net metering projects at about 500 kW. Our average solar installation on the home is about 6 kW.”

      Grid-tied solar folks incorrectly think “distributed” power is going to somehow save our grid. What we should be investing in is “decentralized” power, or micro-grids.

  20. Fred Woogmaster :

    Mr Stern: Common ground is what I seek.
    Polarization obscures common ground.
    Statements like the one I responded to
    can only serve to polarize. Our humanity
    is what we have in common, political
    affiliation notwithstanding.

    Fred Woogmaster
    Independent

    • Keith Stern :

      That is commendable but from my view I don’t see the liberals willing to seek common ground. Anytime Republicans disagree they are labeled obstructionists and the people are told lies such as they want to have poor people starving in the streets.
      Find common ground with that tactic.

      • Fred Woogmaster :

        Mr. Stern:

        Those among the “liberals” and those among the “Republicans” who understand that The Truth is in the center and do seek ‘common ground’ despite differences – are my allies.

        Those who thrive on divisiveness and the demonizing of others with opposing views – are not. Where there is the will, common ground can be found.

        Fred Woogmaster
        Imdependent

        • Keith Stern :

          Unfortunately the majority aren’t willing or can’t find common ground. Take healthcare for one excellent example: the bill will be devastating to our economy and have minimal positive effect compared to the harm it will do but the Democrats aren’t willing to concede the truth and will let the damage be done.

          • Fred Woogmaster :

            Mr. Stern:

            I do not subscribe to your analysis.

            You mentioned your past support of Ross Perot in a previous comment. I believe that M. Jerome Diamond, a staunch Democrat,(?)was Perot’s spokesperson in Vermont. My memory has proven to be quite fallible, however.

            Seems a bit ironic that you and Jerry Diamond were both supporters of Perot; ‘common ground’?

          • Keith Stern :

            It isn’t the liberal ideology I am opposed to. I disagree with most liberal ideas. It is the liberals’ their way of operating. There isn’t a bigger liberal than Ralph Nader but he never used trickery and deceit to accomplish his record which is most impressive.
            I have been in debates with Peter Welch several times and he will talk for several minutes without saying anything. We had one question where we were asked if George W lied about Iraq. He took three minutes to answer that he did without ever saying that he had. I like politicians who can speak the truth pure and simple and accept the consequences when people disagree. He can not do that.

  21. Duncan Kilmartin :

    Re: Doug Hoffer’s “disputing” Vt Biz reprint of Dec 2012 Census Statistics. See Vt Biz for 8/16/13. Hoffer’s statistics do not match those of the article. Simply read it!

    Sorry to be so late correcting the State Treasurer, but better late than never.

    The average weekly wage for Alabama was $854 per week and for Vermont $829.

    Alabama ranked #33 in the nation for average weekly wages. Vermont ranked #37.

    Who had the highest? Washington, D.C. @ $1703, more than twice that of Vermont. The highest New England state was #3 nationally, Connecticut @ $1253, followed by #4 nationally, Massachusetts @ $1248.

    Having the third highest mandatory minimum wage ($8.60 p/h),(higher than Massachusetts @ $8.00, and Connecticut @ $8.25) in the nation, hasn’t helped us at all, has it?

    Bottom line: Vermont’s government has champagne and caviar spending and taxing tastes, without an economy to even support a beer and pretzel diet.

    Ironically, while claiming to care for the masses, the current Administration and General Assembly leadership far exceeds their self-serving myth of Republican “welfare for the rich and crumbs for the peasants”.

    Talk about “corporate welfare” for his friends: Shumlin’s euphemism for that is “unique government/private partnerships”.

    • Keith Stern :

      Just look on both sides of the Connecticut River in the Upper Valley and you can see the tale of two governmental mindsets. Obvious which one is better.

    • Doug Hoffer :

      Mr. Kilmartin

      You have not “corrected” me, you simply restated your initial post. My figures are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. They are all exactly as I reported. The link for each is posted below. If you think they are in error, please provide evidence in support of your position.

      The reason they don’t match those presented in the VT Biz article is that those were for one quarter and mine were for the entire year. The first three data points were all from the BLS, OES (see All Occupations at the top of the table)
      http://stats.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_vt.htm (Vermont)
      http://stats.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm (Alabama)

      According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment & Wage data for 2012, the median hourly wage in Vermont was $16.61 compared to $14.40 in Alabama.

      The average hourly wage was $21.00 in Vermont and $19.01 in Alabama.

      The average annual wage was $43,680 in Vermont and $39,550 in Alabama.

      A VT Biz article in Sept. 2012 reported that the Census ACS median household income in Vermont was $52,776, while Alabama was $41,415 (the U.S. was $50,502).

      The other official major source of income data shows median household income of $54,804 for Vermont and $42,245 for Alabama (the U.S. was $51,027; Census, CPS three-year rollong average).
      http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/statemedian/

      In addition, look at any of the Census, ACS tables for family income and you will see that Vermont is much higher than Alabama.
      http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/statemedian/

      The poverty rate in Vermont was 11.5% and 19% in Alabama (U.S. was 15.9%; Census, ACS).
      http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/acsbr11-01.pdf

      A recent report from USDA found that 17.9% of all households in Alabama were “food insecure.” The figure for Vermont was 12.7%, which is unfortunate but a heck of a lot better than Alabama (and the U.S. avg. of 14.7%).
      http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err-economic-research-report/err155.aspx#.UidniNKKJ8E

      Notwithstanding the avg. weekly wage figures reported for the 4th quarter of 2012, every major income measure shows Alabama lagging badly behind Vermont. This is nothing new.

      Finally, you referred to me as the State Treasurer; I am the State Auditor.

      • Fred Woogmaster :

        Mr. Hoffer: Thanks for the clarification.
        I am not certain as to what
        it all means – really; I am pretty
        certain that you are the right guy
        for the job of Auditor.
        The truth; we need to know the truth.

        Fred Woogmaster
        Plainfield

      • Keith Stern :

        I wonder how the numbers would change if one removed employment in healthcare and government since that is where a high percentage of jobs are in Vermont.

        • Doug Hoffer :

          It would take a great deal of work to answer your question. For now, I can give you some relevant information.

          According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, government jobs represent 19.7% of all jobs in Alabama; for Vermont, the figure is 17.8%.

          Health care jobs in Vermont represent 12% of all jobs, while it’s 9% in Alabama.

          In any case, a large number of health care jobs have comparatively low wages. For example, here are median hourly wages for some health care jobs (median is the midpoint; 50% earn more and 50% earn less; a better figure than the average). The first wage figure is Vermont and the second is Alabama. The jobs figure is for Vermont.

          — $12.11 / $10.22 nursing assistants (2,910 jobs)
          — $12.63 / $9.04 home health aides it’s $12.63 (530 jobs)
          — $10.81 / $9.05 pharmacy aides (200 jobs)
          — $11.05 / $10.16 orderlies (120 jobs)
          — $11.65 / $12.97 health care support workers, all other (180 jobs)

          As you can see, in all but one of these occupations the wages are considerably lower in Alabama (and that’s true across the board).

          That’s almost 4,000 Vermont jobs in health care that pay less than $30,000 (and this doesn’t include all the other non-health support staff working in health care such as janitors, administrative staff, and so forth).

          You can look at the median hourly wages for all occupations here:
          http://stats.bls.gov/oes/current/oessrcst.htm

      • Jason Wells :

        I often wonder about the about the usefulness of the average hourly wage stats. The average as listed above is 21.00 or 16.61 using the median figure. This just does not seem to jive with what I see on a daily basis. The vast majority of people I know would love to be making 16 an hr let alone 20. Could this be a case of a few making very very good income and thereby raising the averages across the board? From what I can see it looks like the top five occupations in VT excepting the education/training group are making a max of 15.24 per hr. median. The more I look into these numbers the sadder it gets and I can almost promise that the majority of workers in this state do not make close to an average median rate of 16 per hour I just don’t see it.

        • Doug Hoffer :

          As you noted, averages are often skewed by a relatively small number of high wage folks (the old bit about what happens to the average wage when Bill Gates walks into the room).

          On the other hand, the median is much more useful as it is the midpoint with 50% earning more and 50% earning less.

          Therefore, it’s not surprising that a lot of people you “know would love to be making 16 an hr.” Indeed, 50% of all working Vermonters are making less. At the same time, 50% are making more.

  22. Keith Stern :

    Also because of a small workforce those making high six figures will largely affect the results.
    Also those in education, primarily secondary education will also change the results.

    • Doug Hoffer :

      As I mentioned to Mr. Wells, the high-end outliers most definitely affect the average but have no impact on the median, which is why I prefer it.

      • Keith Stern :

        That is a better way of looking at the statistics.

  23. Duncan Kilmartin :

    Hi Fred, I wouldn’t be so quick to credit Doug with clarification. Several observations are important in evaluating the statistics which Doug references and which I referenced.

    First, there is a difference between “household income” and “average weekly wages”. Vermonters below the upper 5% are much more interested in the most recent averages, than 3 year rolling statistics, or skewed by Vermont having one of the lowest five birthrates and size of family households in the U.S.

    Second, there is a difference between “mean/average” income and “mean”. For average weekly wages, the average is much more important for public policy and personal choices than the median.

    Third, the figures in the August Vt. Biz article are the most recent snapshot of all of the statewide mean/average for the last quarter of 2012, whereas those referenced by our state Auditor precede May 2012.

    Fourth, Doug’s opening line was my figures did not square with “official” figures, but he knew he could not make that statement twice because the Vt. Biz article contained “US Department of Labor official figures”.

    Fifth, it is interesting to note, Mr. Hoffer simply quotes statistics of his choosing to refute the Alabama/Vermont comparison, but uses earlier data, and then switches to household income and median income. HE NEVER CALLS THE CONCLUSIONS DRAWN INTO QUESTION, NOR THE WITHIN VERMONT COUNTY BY COUNTY ANALYSIS, NOR VERMONT’S POSITION VS. CONN/MASSACHUSETTS/NY/NH. Mr. Hoffer should stop minoring in the minors, and start majoring in the majors.

    Sixth, some statistics I forgot to add, which only demonstrate the validity of the Conclusions drawn in my two earlier comments: NY state, which borders the west side of Vermont ranks #2 in the US @ $1280 per week, after D.C., with “hated” New Hampshire ranking 13th @ $1,023 per week.

    The “average” New Hampshire worker takes home $200 a week more than the “average” Vermont worker; the “average” New York worker takes home $451 per week more than the Vermonter; the average Mass worker takes home $1253 a week, or $424 per week more than the Vermonter. So, you can all forget about the Alabama comparison, and just look at the states bordering Vermont for proof.

    I respectfully submit that Doug Hoffer is engaged in obfuscation and misdirection. The article appears in the August 16th edition of Vermontbiz.com. Unfortunately, I do not have the ability to paste the three line link into this comment, but I did send the article to VtDigger today in the hopes that they could republish it. Then Mr. Hoffer will have an opportunity to address it and not my quotes from it.

    Thanks for listening.

    • Doug Hoffer :

      Mr. Kilmartin

      I provided links to official data for a number of critical income measures; you provided one. Mine included median hourly wage, average hourly wage, two sources for median household income, and one for median family income. In addition, I provided data and links related to poverty and food insecurity. Together, the data presented a clear and indisputable picture of the differences between the two states. You can certainly try to make hay out of the average weekly wage data but it cannot overcome the weight of the evidence.

      BTW – Here’s one more. Vermont’s 2012 per capita income was $42,994; Alabama’s was $35,625.

      Furthermore, here are some caveats from BLS about the weekly wage data.

      “Average weekly or annual pay is affected by the ratio of full-time to part-time workers, as well as by the numbers of individuals in high- and low-paying occupations. When comparing average pay levels among States and industries, data users should take these factors into consideration. For example, industries characterized by high proportions of part-time workers will show average weekly wage levels appreciably less than the weekly pay levels of regular full-time employees in these industries. The opposite is true of industries with low proportions of part-time workers and of industries that typically schedule heavy weekend and overtime work. Average wage data also may be influenced by work stoppages, labor turnover, retroactive payments, seasonal factors, and bonus payments.”

      Re. part-time work: Twelve percent of all Vermont jobs are in the “leisure & hospitality” industry (known for having lots of part-time jobs), while Alabama was 9%. This would help explain the anomalous report of Alabama having higher average weekly wages than Vermont when every other measure of income says the opposite.

      In response to my post, you said (among other things) “For average weekly wages, the average is much more important for public policy and personal choices than the median.” FYI: Mean and average are the same thing. And as I said above, averages are notoriously fickle when discussing income so I respectfully disagree. Both figures have value but I think the median is a better measure when discussing income.

      In addition, you inferred that the numbers are “skewed by Vermont having one of the lowest five birthrates and size of family households in the U.S.” Your reference to “family households” is confusing since they are two different groups. Families are defined as those living together who are related by blood, marriage or adoption. Households are defined as all those living in the same dwelling regardless of their relationships.

      In any case, the 2010 Census found that the average household size in Alabama was 2.48 persons, while Vermont was 2.34. Is it your contention that the tiny difference in household size is a material factor in the enormous disparity in household income ($52,776 vs. $41,415)?

      • Keith Stern :

        Can you also find the cost of living comparison between the 2 states? That is significant when making the comparison.

      • Doug,

        Doug,

        You appear to have some familiarity with annual incomes of households and hourly wages of workers.

        It would be better to compare not averages, but deciles, i.e., what is the annual household income of the bottom decile in Vermont vs. New Hampshire and Maine?

        These three states are somewhat similar. It is irrational to compare Vermont vs. Alabama, as they are completely different states.

        Then do it for the next 9 nine deciles to get some idea of household income distribution.

        One could show each percent of the top decile, to show the disparity of household incomes near the top.

        For Vermont, all the data is available from the Department of Taxes.

        With such data in hand, people who made comments in this string would be better informed and would make better comments.

        • Keith Stern :

          Also discretionary income. That is comparing apples to apples. In the Boston area income is very high but so is the cost of living so one may not net any more than someone in Springfield who earns less but ends up keeping more.

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