Energy & Environment

Public Service Board approves Green Mountain Power, Seabrook deal

Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant

Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant. Photo by Jim Richmond.

Green Mountain Power’s 23-year agreement to purchase power from a New Hampshire nuclear power plant is a sure bet.

The Vermont Public Service board approved the power purchase agreement between the Vermont utility and NextEra Energy Seabrook Friday, approving a certificate of public good.

The agreement serves to replace a portion of the power that from two expiring Green Mountain Power contracts: one with the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station and one with Hydro-Quebéc. The two expiring contracts account for approximately three quarters of the utility’s power supply. Earlier this year, the board approved a new contract with Hydro-Quebéc which will allow Green Mountain Power to purchase electricity from the Canadian utility through 2038. The Seabrook agreement will replace part of the gap between its projected needs and committed energy supplies (including Hydro-Quebéc). According to the order, the agreement would meet approximately 24 percent of the company’s annual energy requirements in its early years.

“This is part of an overall energy vision to get low-carbon, low-cost, reliable energy for our customers,” said Dotty Schnure, a spokeswoman for Green Mountain Power.

Green Mountain Power first announced the agreement in May. It will guarantee a 4.66-cent per kilowatt-hour to Green Mountain Power customers. The agreement provides for two different schedules for amounts of energy. From 2012 to 2014, the agreement provides for 15 megawatts of energy. From 2015 to 2034, it provides for 60 megawatts with periodic reductions in quantity.

Schnure said these reductions are designed to reduce the amount of energy the company receives from the nuclear facility in Seabrook, N.H., and replace it with renewable sources.

Despite some opposition to the idea that Green Mountain Power was replacing one nuclear facility with another from out-of-state, the public service board proceedings drew little opposition. The board received three letters in opposition to the agreement, all stating that Green Mountain Power should purchase electricity in-state from Vermont Yankee rather than out-of-state from Seabrook.

The decision finds the agreement will provide an economic benefit to the state by providing relative long-term price stability, reliability, and a competitive price compared to alternative sources.

The Vermont Department of Public Service also supported the agreement as providing an economic benefit to Green Mountain Power customers.

Liz Miller, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, said she was not aware of any opposition that arose during the Public Service Board review process.

Because the agreement does not involve any construction of an in-state facility, certain criteria do not apply like approval from local planning commissions. Because the agreement would account for more than 3 percent of Green Mountain Power’s portfolio, it required approval from the Public Service Board.

The decision to purchase power from Seabrook to replace Vermont Yankee came more than a year after the Vermont Legislature voted against renewal of the facility’s certificate of public good, and a federal judge has yet to rule on a case between Entergy, the facility’s owner, and the state. Local environmental groups had opposed the decision in May to purchase nuclear power from an out-of-state facility to make up for some of the energy that Green Mountain Power would lose from Vermont Yankee.

James Moore, clean energy program director for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group said the organization was still opposed to the agreement. Although he said he was not surprised that the Public Service Board had approved it.

Moore said the reasons for opposing the deal remain the same. His organization promotes using more local renewable resources as opposed to nuclear power.

“Nuclear power is inherently dangerous and creates a toxic legacy for our kids,” Moore said.

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Alan Panebaker

About Alan

Alan Panebaker is a staff writer for He covers health care and energy issues. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism in 2005 and cut his teeth reporting for the Ashland Daily Tidings and Mail Tribune newspapers in Southern Oregon where he covered education and the environment. A dedicated whitewater kayaker and backcountry skier, he later wrote a weekly outdoors column for the Anchorage Press in Anchorage, Alaska, and continues to publish freelance work for Canoe & Kayak magazine. Alan took a three-year hiatus from journalism to attend Vermont Law School. After passing the bar, he decided to return to his journalism roots and start chasing stories again. He lives in Montpelier.

Postscript: Alan died in a kayaking accident on Sept. 19, 2012, shortly after he took a job with American Whitewater. We here at VTDigger mourn his passing.

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