CLF seeks more details on plans to conduct more Canadian hydropower through Vermont

Carillon Hydro-electric Dam, Pointe Fortune, Quebec. Photo by Mac Armstrong.

Carillon Hydro-electric Dam, Pointe Fortune, Quebec. Photo by Mac Armstrong.

Vermont has agreed to work with other states to bring large amounts of Canadian hydroelectric power to the region to meet growing energy needs. Environmentalists say that prospect could harm ratepayers and the environment.

Vermont partnered with five other New England states and Canada last year to share the cost of the transmission infrastructure needed to carry hydroelectric power from Canada. The additional power would help states meet their renewable energy goals and fill in for other power stations soon to go offline, such as Vermont Yankee.

The regional energy plan does not detail the impacts the proposal might have on ratepayers and the environment in Vermont. The plan includes a sweeping build-out of natural gas and electric transmission infrastructure, according to Sandra Levine, a senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation.

CLF this week filed a public records request to the state for all documents related to transmission build-outs, natural gas pipeline capacity and hydropower imports from Canada. The requests were sent to the other states as well.

The Department of Public Service said new transmission projects to bring hydropower to the region would drive down the cost of electricity by competing with natural gas – which is used in other states as a source of electricity during peak demand periods.

“Under no circumstances would we support a project where the benefits did not outweigh the costs,” Commissioner Chris Recchia said Friday.

The law foundation filed its request to find out the details of the energy plan – including which private-sector developers are involved.

“The Governors’ regional energy plan appears to be the product of backroom deal-making rather than sound public policy informed by open dialogue,” said Seth Kaplan, vice president of policy and climate advocacy at CLF, in a statement this week.

Vermont has made progress on building out a distributed electricity portfolio – largely through its net metering program, which allows residents and business to generate their own electricity. Sourcing new power from Canada is not designed to replace the state’s growing small-scale energy industry, Recchia said.

An estimated $5.4 billion will be invested in the region’s transmission infrastructure over the next four years, according to a recent ISO New England report.

Through the partnership, Vermont will be able to share its distributed generation model – which has saved the state $400 million in the past several years – with other states, reducing the need for some new transmission projects in the long term, according to the department.

“To the extent that we can get the states to reduce those transmission projects, we save a lot of money,” Recchia said.

Nonetheless, developers have their eyes on transmission corridors to bring hydroelectric power to the region — one proposal would carry a high voltage power cable under Lake Champlain and beyond; another would pass across Maine; and the controversial Northern Pass would clear a path through New Hampshire’s northern forests to bring power to Massachusetts.

One developer, Transmission Developers Inc., or TDI New England, has plans to run a 150-mile cable from Canada to southern Vermont. The New England Clean Power Link, as it’s called, needs state and federal approval.

Electric vehicles

The regional leaders also looked at expanding electric vehicle infrastructure, including the 138-mile Vermont-Quebec Electric Vehicle Charging Corridor, a news release stated last year.

The governors have agreed to put 3.3 million zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2025. The chair of Vermont’s Climate Cabinet has made electric vehicles – and the infrastructure demands that come with them – a top priority in the years ahead.

“Almost half of our emissions in Vermont come from transportation,” Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources Deb Markowitz said Thursday. “So it’s a top priority in my agency as to how do we help create the right environment to make electric vehicles the right choice for Vermont families.”

She is working on building out a “green corridor” that would first connect Burlington to Montreal (and later down to Boston, Mass., and as far as New York City). Critical to this plan is setting up universal signage and adequate electric vehicle charging stations at homes, businesses, and along the corridor, she said. Already, about 50 percent of Vermont communities have at least one electric vehicle, she said.

John Herrick

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  • Paul Lorenzini



  • In the article above, Commissioner Recchia stated:

    “Under no circumstances would we support a project where the benefits did not outweigh the costs,”

    The biggest energy project that the state has probably ever undertaken is the 95% renewable energy initiative. Based on what the Commissioner said today, there has to be comprehensive cost /benefit analysis supporting the 95% initiative.

    So, Commissioner Reechia now that you have articulated the Shumlin Administration’s standard in no uncertain terms, can you please direct us to the analysis demonstrating that the benefits of covering our state with industrial solar and wind projects are greater than the costs?

    • Kathy Nelson

      Nicely stated, Mr. Yankowski.

      I am also wondering why the powers that be have forgotten about the vast number of vehicles that will never be converted to electricity. Vehicles like farm tractors, excavators, skidders, roadgraders, snowplows, dump trucks, firetrucks. insanely armored vehicles for the police and national guard to play rambo with, eighteen-wheelers and big delivery trucks. Also, since there is no such thing as an electric four-wheel drive I doubt we’ll be seeing many electric cars on VT’s numerous dirt back roads. I also doubt that commercial loggers will be using electric chainsaws, and I have yet to see an electric snowmobile or ATV (and woe be it to any politician to try and stifle that destructive pastime).
      The only priority that the ANR should have right now is finding an new job for Deb Markowitz, preferably in Afghanistan. It will be a very long time, under a new administration, before the ANR will gain any respect from the people of VT.
      And as for Shumlin’s failed energy policy, I’m sure his own party is now ready and willing to put that in the round file.

      • Richard Ratico


        A local farm has been using least one electric tractor for several years. They may have as many as three of them now. Subaru offers a hybrid four-wheel drive, as do others. Pure electric forklifts have been used for decades. Diesel/electric locomotives are the mainstay of our rail system. High quality electric motorcycles have been available for several years. Tesla, of course, already has a spectacularly successful automobile.

        Fossil fuels will become yet more expensive. They are dirty fuels. They are more valuable as the feedstock for many manufactured products we depend on. The fuel for wind and solar is free. They are clean. The aesthetics may not please everyone (though they do seem to work for a large majority of voters) but there seems to be an undeniable momentum towards adoption of renewable energy at all scales.

        The majority of Vermonter’s, when provided with facts, rather than fiction, will continue to support policies that use our resources wisely.

        • Tom Sullivan

          Well said Richard. Stihl also manufactures a professional line of lithium ion rechargeable chainsaws, and tesla is going to feature a 4wheel drive electric vehicle next year. Its also pretty despicable to slander the national guard just to make a point. I get the fact that you dislike renewable energy, and your certainly entitled to your opinion. But your not doing your cause any justice with such comments.

          • Paul Lorenzini

            I totally agree that vehicles can be powered by electricity, however, we cannot eat electricity, so why would we want to cover farm fields with solar?

          • Richard Ratico

            We cover farm fields with solar so they don’t get covered with Dollar Stores.

        • Willem Post

          Fossil fuels started to be used around 1800. Their low cost and abundance made possible the population explosion from 1 billion in 1800 to an estimated 9.5 billion by 2050.

          It is no possible for renewables to ever be that low in cost, as they are capital- intensive and take up large areas, and typically last about 20-30 years, versus 40 to 60 years for coal, nuclear, and gas plantS, and about 100 years for hydro plants.

          That means, as fossil fuels run out, the world’s present population cannot be supported by RE, unless very significant lifestyle changes are made that aim to reduce energy and other resource consumption per capita.

          There are people who think otherwise, but generally, they are not familiar with the capital and resource requirements to keep the present world set up going.

          Europe is finally beginning to realize its RE efforts cannot be financed, except by The richest countries, such as Germany. Poor countries, and poor states, such as Vermont, cannot possible keep pace with the Germans.

          Their best bet is increased energy efficiency.

  • Faeterri Silver

    Please also include the petroleum cost of the use of large trucks and equipment to construct such infrastructure, and the energy costs to built the materials for this infrastructure.

    I have property in a community in Canada that this proposed power transmission line is going before it crosses the Cabot Strait into Nova Scotia (mega-hydro from Labrador – Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls and Lower Churchill Falls projects) to come to the eastern US markets. Work is being done, regardless that there have been no agreements from the US, 1. to give (temporary) jobs to Canadians to build this infrastructure and 2. to push this agenda that our governor shook hands on with the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador at the meeting of the governors of the Northeast and the premiers of Atlantic Canada last year.

    Since the start of this project the pristine landscape up there looks like much more of a science fiction picture with large transmission towers dotting the barren lands, weird.

    People have been located, not allow to trespass on original traditional lands, and animals will be displaced.

    I say, let us generate our own electricity on a smaller scale and live more simply. But that may be asking too much for many (especially those in cities) who like their creature comforts. My electricity bill, as like many of my friends, is around $30 a month, but I like my lifestyle. Who am I to say how another should live, except as how it impacts the whole world. I speak up against this project.

  • Kim Fried

    Many, many citizens would perfer Hydro as a substitute for destroying the Northeast part of the state with 500 foot turbines on our mountain ridgelines.
    As for Sec. Deb Markowitz, I’m not sure about Afghanistan, but I am sure she needs to spend more of her time taking care of our wildlife and water and let some else sell cars.

  • George Plumb

    Thanks CLF for taking on this controversial challenge. We should keep in mind that it is not just the damage to the Vermont environment but also the Canadian environment. The massive Hydro-Quebec dams have flooded tens of thousands of acres of forest land, destroyed ecosystems of the majority of their large rivers, released tons of methane gases, and brought industrial development to land that once could be accessed only by canoes. The company has also destroyed much of the indigenous culture by changing their lifestyle and literally buying them off. But its “renewable energy” and as long as the cost is externalized to some other place it is fine for corporations. And sadly for most Vermonters also. Let’s have more water parks!

  • Rob Pforzheimer

    Hypocrisy & Double Standards.

    “Under no circumstances would we support a project where the benefits did not outweigh the costs,” Commissioner Chris Recchia said Friday.

    That’s funny because the DPS has supported every wind project without weighing the true costs.

    Recchia makes this claim without any supporting detail, “Vermont will be able to share its distributed generation model – which has saved the state $400 million in the past several years.” How did it save VT, with some of the highest electric rates in the country, anything?

    “The Governors’ regional energy plan appears to be the product of backroom deal-making rather than sound public policy informed by open dialogue,” said Seth Kaplan, vice president of policy and climate advocacy at CLF,”
    CLF has had no problem with backroom deal making and lack of open dialogue when it comes to industrial wind projects.

    • Willem Post


      The $400 million number is thrown out just like that without any supporting evidence.

      The same approach was used for the 90%RE goal. There is evidence of any analysis in the 2011 CEP.

      The only purpose of the goal is so RE folks can say this or that will hinder Vermont getting to the goal.

      Immediately, legislators shrink away from challenging, because it is all so “complicated”. Some of them even tout the numbers Recchia throws out, as if it were the Gospel.

      • John Greenberg

        How can there be “evidence” for a goal?

        What would such “evidence” look like?

  • So, the New England Governor’s have agreed to put 3.3 million zero-emissions vehicles on the road by 2025.

    This is amazing, how do they “agree” to put this number of vehicles on the road?

    Did these Governors use the same analytical process that Vermont used to arrive at the highly scientific conclusion that we should have 95% renewable energy by 2050?

    Do these Governors have any idea that in 2013, only about 60,000 electric vehicles were sold in the entire United States out of a total of 15.6 million cars and pickup trucks sold? What’s more, the automotive sales trend is toward larger cars and pickup trucks.

    And the irony, Massachusetts’ Governor Patrick’s nick name is “Cadillac Deval”as he chose to opt for a big caddie limo when he became Governor. A move that prompted ridicule in the Bay State.

    Now “Cadillac Deval” will be joining Shummy and the rest of the New England pols by telling us how many electric cars will be on the road.

    You can make this stuff up, its too wild, no one would believe it.

    • Coleman Dunnar

      Peter you asked: “Did these Governors use the same analytical process that Vermont used to arrive at the highly scientific conclusion that we should have 95% renewable energy by 2050?”
      According to my sources a very complicated econometric model is used (too complicated to detail here). It’s called “Pick a Number any Number” The model evaluates what sounds good politically against what sounds even better politically. When they run it the reality loop auto-disconnects.
      An example of the output is Deb Markowitz’s definition of ubiquitous “Already, about 50 percent of Vermont communities have at least one electric vehicle”, she said. Sounds much better than each Vermont community now has one half an electric vehicle.
      Peter you also stated “You can[‘t] make this stuff up, its too wild, no one would believe it. Unfortunately too many do believe it.

      • Coleman:

        I generally agree with your thinking, but in this case a major correction is called for.

        Specifically: The New England Governor’s did not use the “Pick a Number any Number” econometric model you cite even though it is highly regarded and frequently used in Montpelier.

        They instead elected to use the more sophisticated “Drop the Dead Cat from the 5th Floor System” and if it bounces the answer is 3.3 million electric cars.

      • Paul Lorenzini

        kind of like the global warming models?

      • Willem Post


        RE is somewhat like religion, people make up things that do not stand up to rigorous analysis. RE very often is faith-based, not fact-based.

        Take the example of GMP hanging up stories about wind turbine capacity factors on ridge line, which had no basis in reality.

        Capacity factors were pulled out of a hat, and the PSB rushed to swallow that garbage hook line and sinker, just so GMP could get to the subsidies as quickly as possible.

        The $10.5 million synchronous-condenser system is still not on line; it was supposed to be on line at the end of 2013.

        In religion, all sorts of stories are made up that people believe, whereas the basis of all religions is a basic set of rules, such as the Ten Commandments in Christianity, or something equivalent in other religions.

    • Peter,

      Here is and analysis of poor Vermont’s RE program. The 90% goal is much more ambitious than of rich Germany, which is having second thoughts about the costs of its RE programs.

      Having a costly corridor of charging stations, at about $50,000 each, every few miles, for electric vehicles, from Montreal to Boston is far beyond rational.

      Who will pay for this?

      This is wasteful government aggrandizement at its worst.

      How come these bureaucrats are still on the state payroll?

      Who keeps re-electing those legislators that are in league with these bureaucrats?

      Already-struggling households and businesses have been dealing with a near-zero-growth Vermont economy since 2007, with the tax-burdened, hollowed-out, private sector shrinking relative to the growing, bloated government sector, which is acting as a wet blanket on the private sector, a sure recipe for economic stagnation, lack of well-paid employment growth (except in government), or worse.

      At some point, clear-headed thinking must prevail, budgets must be cut, taxes must be reduced, wasteful programs must be eliminated, or else Vermont’s hollowed-out, private, tax-paying economy will continue on its near-zero-growth path, less and less able to scrape up enough money to pay for the rapidly-increasing expenditures of the growing, money-guzzling government sector.


      Vermont has subsidized about $510 million of solar and wind investments (about $190 million for solar + about $320 million for wind), over the past 3.5 years, and has practically nothing to show for it; about 0.83% of Vermont’s annual consumption from solar and about 3.89% from wind, for a total of 4.72% of Vermont’s annual ELECTRICAL ENERGY consumption, or about 4.72/3 = 1.57% of ALL annual energy consumed by Vermont.

      That is a long way off from the unrealistic, starry-eyed, 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan goal of 90% of ALL annual energy consumed by Vermont from renewable sources by 2050, not just electrical energy which is only 1/3 of ALL energy.

      How many tens of billions of dollars would that take? Oh, about 90/1.57 x $500 million = $28.7 billion over 2050 – 2013 = 37 years, or about $0.775 billion per year.

      The 90% goal would impose on Vermont’s economy job-destroying household and business electric rates at least 3-4 times current levels. See below article on Germany.

      It is likely that goal was set without any realistic, in-depth analysis, which should have been included in the 2011 CEP report for all to see. Poor Vermont’s goal is more extreme than rich Germany’s ENERGIEWENDE goal.

      NOTE: It is amazing the Department of Public Service does not keep track of these numbers and post them, along with other project data, in spreadsheet format, on its website. Even for an energy expert, it takes quite some effort to gather the information from various sources.

      • Willem:

        Thank you for the input, it is always sound and informative…….much more than we get from our elected and appointed state officials.

        A few months ago, I had a long conversation with Commissioner Recchia about what cost/benefit analysis the State had done before embarking on the 95% renewable energy initiative.

        While being very pleasant in dealing with me, the Commissioner did a lot of hemming and hawing about analysis, but in the end could not cite anything that addressed comprehensive cost/benefit analysis done by the State.

        The plain sorry reality is that you Willem Post, probably have more cost/benefit analysis noted in pencil on the back of your last GMP bill than the State has done on this all important issue.

      • Richard Ratico

        Mr. Post may not be the expert on energy matters he claims to be, but give him credit, he IS sensitive to the fact that most of the wind turbine haters posting here would not share his affection for nukes and natural gas.

        Willem, here’s some suggested reading to get you up to speed:

        • Mr. Ratico:

          What qualifications do you have to be passing judgment on another person’s expertise on energy or any topic for that matter?

          • Richard Ratico

            Mr Yankowski,

            I claim no special qualification other than having lived long enough to have become wary of anyone claiming to have all the answers, particularly when those answers fly in the face of common sense or simply prove to be false.

            Anyone sufficiently arrogant and foolish to BOAST of their purported expertise invites careful scrutiny of whatever it is they advocate. Mr Post has repeatedly been caught out making statements that are simply not true, including by myself as regards Vermont’s net metering program.

            I am a participant in that program, in that I help my clients to install solar electric systems. I took the time to read the law, which is available online for anyone to read. I directed Mr. Post to the specific law on the State website. Mr. Post either did not read it, did not understand it, or intensionally chose to misstate it.

            A person who refuses to face facts when they contradict strongly held opinion or ideology does not qualify as an expert.

          • Mr. Ratico:

            Okay, now we understand your motivation……’re engaged in the solar business and stand to benefit financially from its growth, but you’re open minded about it.

            That’s fine.

            That being said, one would have expected you to have spoken out loudly and clearly by now about how poorly some some of these industrial renewable energy projects have preformed from a reliability and cost point of view. The negative impact of these industrial projects on communities is also a subject that cannot be ignored.

            So when do we face these facts?

          • Willem Post

            Thank you for your comments.

            Some people, such as Richard would not have a solar business, if it were not for the excessive PV solar subsidies. He should be grateful we are all chipping in to make it possible.

            Regarding the net metering law, GMP treats customers differently, if they are in the GMP North territory, or in the GMP South territory, the former CVPS area, where standard net metering rules apply.

            It is a mystery to me, that Vermont does not have a statewide net metering standard which is the same for every user.

          • Richard Ratico

            Mr. Yankowski,

            No, you don’t understand my motivation. Very little of the income from my business as a self employed licensed electrician comes from solar work, though it is always welcome.

            What motivates me is a desire to leave a better world for my children and grandchildren……and for yours as well should you have any. What motivates me is my anger at reading the lies that are too frequently posted here.

          • Willem Post

            I am not sure, but Richard is an electrician who has his own business.

    • This is amazing, how do they “agree” to put this number of vehicles on the road?

      Peter – the Government will buy them, like always, with your tax $$$. Soon, we will see all the people under the golden dome driving electric cars and all the Agencies silently humming around in these cars. Yep, it’s one of those special interest deals where they are to big to fail if they roll these cars out.

  • Kim Fried

    Please put me on the list for a highly, very highly subsidized electric car, which can get at least a couple hundred miles of commute without being recharged.

    • Kim,

      It will go only half that range on cold days, say 20F.

  • Todd Spayth

    I’d be interested in hearing more about the charging plazas along the greenway. Will there be Starbucks, BK, Mc D, Cin-a-bon? And maybe a movie theater so while my car is charging I’ll be entertained? Don’t forget to calculate those facilities build-out costs AND impacts in the analysis.

    • Glenn Thompson

      From the article!

      “The regional leaders also looked at expanding electric vehicle infrastructure, including the 138-mile Vermont-Quebec Electric Vehicle Charging Corridor, a news release stated last year.”

      Pure Utopian fantasy! The only electric vehicle capable of making that trip without a charge is the Tesla! The rest, would need to stop and get recharged for several hours. Who is going is going to attempt to make that trip in an electric vehicle when it takes less than 5 minutes to fill up a gas tank….and most vehicles can make it round trip without filling up?

      FYI, as I spend my winters in Southern Arizona, a shopping center nearby has two electric charging systems. In the 4 years I’ve been out here…..I have yet to anyone use one! If nothing else…these Utopian dreamers can certainly figure out ways to waste taxpayer’s money and drive the cost of living for ordinary citizens….THROUGH THE ROOF!

  • J. Scott Cameron

    Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.

    No matter what is proposed some segment of Vermonter voters will oppose it. If not the voters and politicians, we have plenty of environmental agencies and non-profits to take out the trash.

    Wind? Wonderful, but not on our ridge lines. Solar? Great for Arizona but don’t mess with my view of a hillside or pasture that someone else owns, cause that’s why I moved here. Hydro? Not at the expense of covering a Native burial ground or vital woodchuck habitat. Natural gas? Frack you! Coal? We’re still suing Ohio about that. Nuclear? It ain’t too new and it ain’t too clear. Wood? Plenty in Vermont. It’s dirty but there are going to be a lot of dead ash trees anyway as the Ash Borer Beetle moves north due to global warming.

    With all our old buildings our best bet for the near term is to concentrate on conservation and energy efficiency. Set appropriate energy standards for all new buildings. Nevertheless, there has to be a plan for the medium and long term future. We can’t just say NO to everything.

  • Jed Guertin

    Wondered when the 2002 VELCO North West Reliability Project would rear its ugly head again.

    One of the transmission lines from the New Haven massive substation, (New Haven is a major VT growth center) approved by the PSD would trisect Vergennes with 90 foot towers and a giant substation in the Vergennes/Otter Creek Historic Basin. The PSD agreed with GMP/VELCO that the transmission line would have NO social, environmental, or economic impact on the city.

    In addition the PSD engineered an unwarned meeting between the City fathers and GMP (now GMP President mary Powell was in attendance) along with a representation from the PSD ,to have a little “chin wag” in the city managers office.

    The local people protested loudly enough to get GMP to change the route. Sadly, a group of VT citizens who never anticipated seeing such a massive line got the fallout.

    And that’s only for starters.

  • Sure, regulate Vermont to death, shut down any hydro electric we had, say, “clean energy” by 2025, say, “we can be energy independent with solar and wind’ and then bring in a huge deal with a huge Corp. – what! what!

    So, gas lines, oil lines, electric lines, wind generators, solar panels, Corporations and Government. Seems all these things belong in the same filing cabinet, after all, they all are joined at the hip – wearing starched collars and three piece suits.

  • Willem Post

    The DPS claims Vermont saved $400 million due it’s distributed energy model.

    To come with that number, there must have been some spreadsheet analysis.

    Why not made the analysis public information in the DPS website, include assumptions and sources of information, instead of just throwing out a number that appears off the charts?

    DPS has to stop acting like Madison Avenue and start acting like engineers.

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