Renewable energy makeover clears House committee

A proposed remake of the state’s renewable energy program cleared its first major hurdle Tuesday with broad support from a panel of lawmakers.

After three weeks of deliberation, the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee voted 10-1 to pass H.40, a bill requiring utilities to sell renewable power and incentivize fossil fuel consumption reductions by their customers.

This bill aims to avoid a potential rate increase under Vermont’s current program and reduce greenhouse gas emissions coming from all energy sectors, including heating and transportation.

According to the bill, 55 percent of a utility’s electricity must come from renewables such as wind, solar or hydro power by 2017 — a percentage that steadily increases to 75 percent by 2032. Some of this electricity must come from in-state energy generation projects.

The utilities would also be required to reduce their customers’ fossil fuel emissions from heating and transportation. This may be achieved by offering thermal efficiency and electric heating incentives, for example.

The bill now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee because it includes alternate compliance fees for utilities that don’t reach their obligations under the program. The revenue from the fees would be placed into the Clean Energy Development Fund to help pay for other renewable energy projects.

Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, does not plan any significant changes to the bill at this point.

Neighbors living near energy generation project suggested the bill include new siting standards, but both committees agree that energy siting will be addressed in a separate bill.

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  • Scott Woodward

    I think the committee made the wrong choice in drafting language that requires property owners to affirm retaining ownership of any REC’s created by self-generation facilities. By some calculations, these REC’s could be worth $1,200-1,800/year. By automatically giving the REC’s to the utilities the new statutory language allows the utilities to take the value of those REC’s for free, unless the property owner objects.

    Property owners should not have to object by opting-out. If the property wants to give the REC’s to the utilities, fine, but better to do it by conscious election (which is how the current language is structured). If new the language were to be signed by the Governor, Vermont would be the only state that handles REC’s from self-generation facilities in this manner. I just don’t understand why we need to meet our goals this way. We can do better.

  • Ed Letourneau

    How do they offer “thermal efficiency and electric heating incentives” without raising the cost of living for those who don’t have any more to give?

  • It seems that the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach to government is alive and well and has spread from the Governor’s office to the legislature.

    After an exhaustive “three weeks” of deliberation, H.40 was passed out of House Natural Resources Committee. Let’s not forget that the legislature only meets four days a week, so a determination on H.40 was actually made in only 12 days.

    Yes folks, it was a whole 12 days that the House Natural Resources Committee dedicated to studying, understanding and debating legislation that will have long term, massive and fundamental impacts on the way energy is produced and consumed in Vermont for decades to come.

    The requirements of H.40 will touch everyone living or doing business in the state and there will be cost consequences that have yet to be defined.

    And to think, all this work was done by House Natural Resource Committee members who were advised only three weeks ago by their Chairman Tony Klein to get glossaries so they could understand what was being discuss in committee on H.40.

    One has to ask, does the House Natural Resources Committee’s handling of H.40 make a mockery out of the concept of careful and thoughtful deliberation?

    • Ralph Colin

      To Peter’s question, the answer is yes, and it also suggests that in the particular room in which the committee meets, there grows a tree on which little dictators grow, their education being supervised by a chair who has had considerable experience in the exercise of that pursuit.

    • John Greenberg


      Your comments suggest that 12 days deliberation by the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee “make a mockery out of the concept of careful and thoughtful deliberation.”

      To take your comment seriously, I have to assume that you were either present at the committee’s hearings or that you’ve taken the time to request the CDs from Legislative Counsel and listen to them, in short, that you’re aware of exactly what was and wasn’t discussed. Otherwise, how could you possibly know how “careful” or “thoughtful” the Committee was?

      If the process is indeed “a mockery,” as you suggest, then please be so kind as to provide us with a detailed analysis of exactly what the Committee failed to consider, and why you believe that’s important. (Or on which points that the Committee DID consider they reached erroneous conclusions).

      More specifically, you tell us that there are “cost consequences that have yet to be defined,” but since the two VT Digger articles (this one and the “Special Report”), taken together, explain with very specific figures what the cost consequences of enacting or not enacting this change in the law would be, I have no idea exactly what it is that you’re referring to. So please provide an explanation of what consequences you’re talking about.

      • John:

        You apparently didn’t read the Herrick articles very closely. If you did, you would know that the only cost cited was the 6 to 20% rate increases possible if the REC problems arising from the SPEED program were not corrected.

        Throughout the Herrick articles references are made to future costs arising from H.40, but they are not defined. For instance Herrick writes:

        “RESET……would required utilities to sell renewable electricity to customers. This will increase the cost of electricity.” No amount cited.

        “ Electric customers would pay for thermal efficiency through new fees on their electric bills or through their electric rates.’ No amount cited.

        “ Their electric bill will go up, but fuel oil will go down, said Asa Hopkins, DPS director of energy policy….” No amounts cited

        “Electricity prices would rise in the short term under the proposed program……” No amount cited or definition of what short term is.

        Then there are the cost of heat pumps, electric cars, infra-structure for electric car charging, the cost of standby electrical power generation needed when wind and solar aren’t working.

        These are some examples of the “cost consequences “ to be defined and you can be assured there will be more.

        Gov. Shumlin has already given this state the post child of unanticipated cost consequences with the health care exchange. When exchange performance failed and costs raged out of control, the Governor never even realized it. He referred to the problems as a “Nothing-burger”. The health exchange debacle occurred by plunging into an endeavor without fully understanding what was being undertaken. Vermont doesn’t need a repeat of that experience.

        The point is that H.40 is a complex bill with far reaching requirements that will fundamentally impact energy policy for decades to come. This transformation of our energy consumption practices comes with costs that have not been defined.

        If you think there will no incremental costs to be incurred, then say so. If you know what the future costs will be, please share them with us.

        Beyond the problem of undefined H.40 future costs is the absolute complexity of the bill. Its complicated nature could have been better addressed if it had been broken into more manageable parts with a rational time review schedule. This would have allowed the committee members adequate time to properly understand the future impact of the legislation free of the pressure of having to move the SPEED/RESET component to avoid the expected 6 to 20% rate increases.

        The House Natural Resources & Energy Committee has seven new members this year. These are good people. However, they are new to the complicated world of energy policy and are facing complex policy issues for the first time.

        Rep. Robin Chestnut-Tangerman put it well when he said: “ I have layman’s experience with renewable energy, which didn’t prepare me at all for policy.”

        Add to Chestnut-Tangerman’s comments those from David Hallquist of Vermont Electric Cooperative who stated: “It’s a huge challenge and there are a lot of assumptions, and I think there is a lot that can go wrong.”

        Additionally, Annette Smith, one of Vermont’s best informed people on energy policy and associated legislative language, testified before the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee, that H.40 was an extremely complex bill that was difficult to understand.

        Rushing through legislation of this complexity in three weeks or 12 committee days does make a mockery of our legislative process. It is the complete opposite of what the people expect and can only result in a poor product, which will surely result in unanticipated and unwanted costs.

        • John Greenberg


          It’s late and I’m tired. I’ll analyze just one of your critiques.

          “RESET……would required [sic] utilities to sell renewable electricity to customers. This will increase the cost of electricity.” No amount cited.”

          No amount is cited, because no one knows. In order to know how much the amount of the increase, you need to accurately predict the wholesale cost of electricity, to know the type of renewable energy that will be purchased, and to accurately predict the cost of that energy. But none of these is knowable.

          I monitored predictions of Vermont wholesale electric costs over a period of roughly 8 years as part of following and trying to understand the details of the Vermont Yankee docket at the PSB. They came from a variety of participants: Entergy, DPS, the utilities, Synapse (a consulting firm), and others as well. They all had one thing in common: they were wrong. Moreover, at any given time, the estimates were not close or even in the same ballpark; in fact, they differed by more than a billion dollars. So whose estimate should the committee have used and on what basis should they have made their choice?

          As to the types of renewable energy, it’s important to remember that the electric sector – like the rest of our economy – is actually driven by the private sector. Most projects are built by third party developers, who can choose to build (or not build) whatever they think will be most profitable for them. (And they can change their minds whenever they choose). A few years ago, utility-scale wind projects were the projects of choice in Vermont; today, it’s large solar projects. Tomorrow, who knows? But the cost of wind projects is not in the same ballpark as the price of solar photovoltaic, and the size of a project (as well as location, land costs, permitting costs, etc.) also vary considerably from project to project.

          Finally, the cost of any given project is not easily predicted either, especially if we’re talking about projects which won’t be built for a few years. Especially in the solar world, prices have dropped precipitously, and most analysts – other than Willem Post – believe they will continue to do so. So what time frame are we talking about here? The bill, as I understand it (Full disclosure: I haven’t read it) covers a decade or more. How many projects will be built each year? (All of the factors I’ve mentioned will vary year by year) How is anyone supposed to know that? What will the economy be doing in the meantime? What will interest rates be in 5 years for projects dependent on borrowing money?

          Whose analysis of all this does the committee believe and on what basis?

          Legislators are smart enough to understand that they don’t know any of this. In my experience, they don’t even TRY to undertake these kinds of decisions. Instead, they push ANY of this kind of decision making into the hands of DPS and PSB, both of which at least have experts on staff with the knowledge and experience to make reasonable choices given actual projects which are broad forward from the private sector. For this kind of nitty gritty issue, the PSB holds extensive hearings taking testimony from all comers, and presents lengthy, detailed analyses of which experts it is relying on, why it has rejected those it disagrees with, and how other laws impact their decision. For complex decisions like the VY CPG, this can entail weeks of hearings, thousands of pages of testimony, hundreds of pages of briefs and God knows how many pages of discovery, depositions, etc.

          In sum, there are no obtainable facts here. If there were, part-time legislators would NEVER have the time or expertise to find and evaluate them Nor is there any likelihood of that changing any time soon.

          So, again, what is it that you believe the committee SHOULD have done about this point that they didn’t do? Where PRECISELY is the “mockery” to which you keep referring?

          Despite your comments about haste, this bill hasn’t been enacted. It hasn’t even made it to the floor of the House for a 2nd reading and before that happens, it will go through at least one other Committee for further examination, discussion, and debate. If the bill remains contentious by the time it reaches the floor, there will be debate on the floor of the House with members of both committees reporting their conclusions and reasoning to their colleagues. In short, there will be plenty of input during the remaining process before the bill even makes it to the Senate. And then, the whole process will repeat itself.

          If the Senate simply accepts the bill as written by the House, the bill will then go to the governor. But far more frequently, the Senate makes changes in the bill, which means that the two chambers will have to reconcile their differences. That happens in a conference committee, but the committee’s decision will need to pass both houses before it goes to the governor for his signature.

          While the committees and legislators are considering these issues, a host of outsiders are likely to be working on the bill behind the scenes: DPS, perhaps the PSB, the utilities, environmental groups, renewables developers, renewables opponents are all likely to be well represented and, in many cases, working on the details of the bill. For those who want the bill to pass, they’ll try to work out their differences among themselves, so they can present legislators with language with which as many parties agree as possible. Since these folks often have considerable expertise, that gives legislators considerable comfort and assistance in making their choices.

          In addition to formal testimony in committee, there are many other opportunities for committee members to hear from and question experts from outside the legislature. Never underestimate the importance of the legislative cafeteria!

          As to people’s expectations, I have no idea on what you basis your statements about what “people expect,” but they certainly don’t jibe with my expectations or experience. Vermonters who follow politics at all are aware that we have a citizen legislature and that it meets only part time. Typical legislative sessions last about 16-20 weeks. If this bill actually passes this year, the probability is that it will have taken most or all of the legislative session to do so. That’s not unusual for major bills in Vermont; in fact, it’s the norm. Welcome to the reality of a part-time citizen legislature.

          This is the beginning of the process, not the end. If enough questions are raised that legislators find at problematic or troubling, the process will slow down. That’s certainly not unheard of. But having spent some time watching a few legislative issues with some care – include a stint lobbying (as a volunteer) in the State House – nothing about the process of this bill at this point seems even vaguely unusual.

          The only evidence of “Ready, Fire, Aim” I see here is in your comments.

          • John:

            Now that’s a lot of words, but I waded through them to get at the essence of what you’re saying. Not surprisingly what you had to say can be boiled down to only a few words. Here they are:

            “No amount is cited, because no one knows”

            “A few years ago, utility-scale wind projects were the projects of choice in Vermont; today, it’s large solar projects. Tomorrow, who knows.”

            “Finally, the cost of any given project is not easily predicted either……”

            “Whose analysis of all this does the committee believe..”

            “Legislators are smart enough to understand that they don’t know any of this.”

            “….. complex decisions ……can entail weeks of hearings……and God knows how many pages of discovery….”

            What you are saying is: no one knows the answers; its hard to get the answers; it would take too long to get answers and the legislators are smart enough to know they don’t know.

            Thus your thinking seems to be that since we don’t know the answers and it would be hard to do the homework…….the solution is speed blindly ahead.

            You seem to be advocating a level of performance below “Ready, Fire, Aim”, which is not what the people expect.

          • John Greenberg

            No Peter.

            You’ve managed to miss all of my points. I’ll try again, more succinctly.

            My first and main point was that there’s a difference between “we don’t know the answers and it would be hard to do the homework,” on the one hand, and there IS no answer because the answer depends on three precise data points and “none of these is knowable,” on the other.

            If this situation were correctly describable by the phrasing I just quoted from your reply, one could readily and realistically demand more homework. That was your point in the first place. But, in fact, that is NOT the situation in which we find ourselves.

            There is NO amount of homework which will suffice to provide the answer to your question, because the answer is beyond our knowledge. (I provided the reasons before; I won’t repeat them).

            Criticizing a legislative committee for a lack of diligence in doing its homework might be an appropriate response IF more diligence would provide the answers you’re looking for. But it is wholly illegitimate when there are no such answers. In the latter case, demanding that more time be spent is tantamount to asking the committee to spin its wheels. That was my primary point above.

            My secondary point, which you appear to have missed as well, is that there is no evidence that the committee has failed to do its homework to the extent that IS possible in this instance, nor is there any evidence more time spent in this committee would make a better law. Again, I detailed my reasoning in my prior comment, so I won’t repeat it here.

            A final point. Since you’ve put me in the position of defending the committee’s work by raising spurious arguments, I want to reiterate that I haven’t read the bill. Accordingly, I am NOT defending it any more broadly than my specific responses here and above. I’m not “ready” yet, and there is no need to “aim and fire” at this time.

  • Anne Galloway:

    I’m wondering why this article is buried way back in the energy archive section with no mention on the vtdigger front page?

    H.40 has very substantial consequences for Vermonter’s for decades to come, yet it has moved through the House Natural Resources Committee like a rocket.

    The bill is so complicated that Chairman Klein advised his committee, stacked with new members, to bring their glossaries in order to understand what was being considered. Notwithstanding the inexperienced committee members and complicated subject matter the bill passed out of committee in only a matter of days.

    John Herrick’s first article (2/17/15 AM) on this matter drew a load of interest and comments expressing concern with the bill. Should this article receive more prominent expose in light of the importance, far reaching implications and interest in the bill?

  • annette Smith

    Take a look at the ISO-NE grid mix and see no sun and hardly any wind. How is this renewable energy 90% going to work?

    • John Greenberg


      The ISO-NE grid mix shows only installations which are feeding power into the grid. But, in ISO-NE’s language: “… PVs aren’t typically connected to the high-voltage transmission system that the ISO manages—many are located “behind-the-meter” or connected directly to a home or business.”, p. 28 (p. 30 of pdf)
      To be clear, ISO-NE is talking about not just off-grid installations like yours, but also installations which are net metered, and where most of the power is consumed by the owner/generator. In these cases, solar generation is not “seen” by the grid as production at all. As the number of installations grows, grid operators will perceive them primarily as a drop in demand, rather than as additional supply.
      I have no idea what the numbers are on net-metered installations versus those where power is sold predominantly or entirely into the grid, but until fairly recently, I’m pretty certain the second kind has predominated. Utility scale producers who are not consuming the power have come on the scene only in the last couple of years, as I understand it, at least in any serious quantity, because prices have dropped sufficiently to make these installations more economically viable.
      All this is worth noting here because even if there were massive penetration of the New England market by rooftop solar and other net-metered solar projects, the ISO-NE daily “meter” that you and others are constantly citing in these comments would never pick it up. Only the ‘atypical’ (to distort ISO’s phrase) projects which are ‘on-the-meter’ (ditto) will show up in these statistics.
      Needless to say, that makes citation of statistics from the day-to-day “meter” quite misleading.

      • Annette Smith

        I think you missed my point that ISO-NE has been showing solar in its grid mix for several months. Today the “Solar” portion of the fuel mix shows up as 0%. Recently they haven’t posted it at all, even though there are been brilliantly sunny blue sky days. Whatever solar is in the mix has shown up in the past as 1 or 2% of the renewables fuel mix. It is all that which I assume are larger grid-connected arrays that I am observing must be covered with snow with no maintenance occurring. Generation built but a resource lost.

        • Willem Post


          ISO-NE only monitors and manages what is connected to the high voltage grid.

          Most PV solar systems are connected to the distribution grids.

          If GMP could sum all the PV production fed into the grid via its smart meters and report that sum to ISO-NE, but it is not required to do so, so ISO-NE would have something to show other than zero.

          In Germany ALL PV systems have TWO meters and utilites ARE required to report the sum of the flows of each meter.

          In Vermont, most PV solar systems have TWO smart meters; one to monitor the energy flow from the grid to the house, and the other to monitor the energy flow of the PV production fed to the grid.

          The bill GMP sends to the user each month may show only the difference of the flows. People may interpret that as “running the meter backwards”.

    • John Greenberg


      My previous comment was too generous.

      The ISO-NE link you provide shows a snapshot of NEW ENGLAND power supply. But the goal you cite is for 90% of VERMONT power.

      If 100% of Vermont’s power were renewable today, that would be – at the very peak of today’s demand – approximately 5% of the ISO-NE demand. In other words, even ignoring my previous comment (and there’s no good reason to do so), even if we really are at 0% today on this snapshot, Vermont’s CEP goal is around 4.5%, not 90% of the power shown in this snapshot.

      But that’s not all. The 90% goal is for renewable power SOLD, not generated. Specifically, as you well know, imported Hydro Quebec power IS included, as is power from other sources which meets the definition of “renewable.” The figure also assumes considerable efforts to reduce demand.

      In addition, it should be noted that the goal is not for today, but for 35 years from now.

      Finally, according to ISO-NE’s annual report: “The ISO has already facilitated the integration of over 700 MW of wind power….”, p. 28 (30 of pdf).

      That’s nameplate capacity, but of course, wind power is only generated when the wind is blowing, and not always at 100% capacity even then. Still, if these generators were producing power at 100% of capacity and if the wind blew 100% of the time, they would still only represent about 3.5% of New England’s power needs. And as SHOULD be obvious to anyone, neither of these hypothetical statements is ever going to be true.

      It’s unclear why opponents of wind power appear to expect renewable generators to produce power before they get built. It seems pretty obvious to me that if you prevent wind projects from being built, they won’t contribute much power to the New England mix.

      The 5+ New England nuclear plants that never got built (Seabrook 2, Charlestown 1 &2; Montagu 1 &2) aren’t contributing much to the New England grid either.

      • Steve Comeau


        You make a valid point that the ISO-NE grid mix shows only installations which are feeding power into the grid, so behind-the-meter solar is not included in that mix. It is an important caveat on that data, but since it still a very small amount it does little to distort the overall “fuel mix”, which is still quite revealing.

        Unfortunately we can’t determine the Vermont electric power mix very easily. GMP has estimated electricity data for 2014. The Vermont Public Service Department has the rather old and rather confusing “2013 Utility Facts”, which does not breakout the renewables components well at all.

        Annette’s question, “How is this renewable energy 90% going to work?”, is a good one. Another way to state it is: What will be the impact of going to 90% renewable energy in the next 35 years? You note that “The figure also assumes considerable efforts to reduce demand.” It would seem that part of these “considerable efforts” would need to be a large increase in the cost of energy.

        In addition to this, renewables would be to be deployed at massive industrial scale. I think too often the depiction of RE does not include this concept. That may be necessary, but it is important part of the equation, and now many people who thought they were for RE are now against renewable energy as they see the direct impact. It is a bit of a quandary. We are lucky that Vermont can and does get so much renewable energy from Hydro Quebec, where the large scale infrastructure is off in the distance in sparsely populated areas.

        • Annette Smith

          ISO-NE’s 2014 electricity outlook projects based on public policy and economic choices being made now that in the future the grid mix will be 55% natural gas, 40% wind and 5% other.

          I think the wording in their report is in some ways raising red flags, or reading between the lines perhaps what they are saying is “watch out, this is what you’re going to get if you stay on the path you are on.” Note that “other” would be hydro, solar, wood, landfill methane, assuming no oil, coal or nuclear.

          Policy makers might want to look out a bit further at their choices.

          The comments by John on my question about how Vermont is going to get to 90% renewable energy (not just electricity) seem to rely on the grid power, but if policy makers are putting in place policies that rely almost entirely on natural gas and wind, when the wind isn’t blowing my observation is still valid, that this “plan” has a lot of problems. And as we are seeing, even with some large solar deployed, enough so in the past it has shown up as 1 or 2% of the renewable fuels mix, if nobody is cleaning the snow off they are useless.

          • John Greenberg

            Annette Smith writes: “ISO-NE’s 2014 electricity outlook projects based on public policy and economic choices being made now that in the future the grid mix will be 55% natural gas, 40% wind and 5% other.”

            I assume she’s referring to the same document we’ve discussed elsewhere ( namely, page 16 “What will tomorrow’s energy mix look like?”

            I’ve responded to this previously, so I’ll simply quote my previous comment, to which Annette never responded. As is obvious, it was addressed directly to Annette.
            “I think you’re misconstruing what is pictured in the graph. If you glance through the rest of the report, you’ll see acknowledgement of the considerable growth of solar photovoltaic, along with the statement: “About 2,000 MW of nameplate PV is anticipated
            by the end of 2021.” (p. 17) See also the statement on page 20 that: “In June 2013, five New England states announced a regional initiative to explore expanded imports of LARGE amounts of Canadian hydro power into the region to help limit carbon emissions and reduce electricity costs.” (emphasis added)
            Since the graph on page 16 bears the subhead: “Examining new generator proposals submitted to the ISO as of January 2014, it’s easy to see how public policy and economics are driving the industry’s choices for tomorrow’s fuel sources,” I’m assuming that the graph shows what “tomorrow’s energy mix [would] look like” IF it were solely dependent on the proposals in-hand “as of January, 2014.”
            To be sure, it’s hard to tell and the graph raises far more questions than it answers.
            For example, what does “tomorrow” mean? Seabrook, for example, is licensed to operate, even in the unlikely event that the NRC denies its request for renewal, until 2030. The 2 Millstone plants are licensed till 2035 and 2045. Pilgrim, as far as I know, is up in the air at the moment, but is likely to be licensed into the 2030s as well. To get to a scenario even vaguely resembling the graph on page 16 of this report, all 4 would need to be shut down [before “tomorrow”].
            The same goes for hydro power, which currently contributes 13% of the region’s generation not including whatever is imported from Canada.
            If ISO-NE were really suggesting that resources currently supplying almost half of the region’s demand for electricity were expected to simply disappear, you would think there would be SOME discussion of that in the report. It’s a pretty significant scenario to simply pass over in silence.
            On the other hand, there are NO “new generator proposals submitted to the ISO as of January 2014” for NEW nuclear or hydro projects, so the reading I suggested above would seem to make far more sense.”

            Given what I’ve just written, the concerns in Annette’s final paragraph disappear. Policy makers are NOT “putting in place policies that rely almost entirely on natural gas and wind.” Indeed, that much is clear from other points in the ISO-NE report referred to above, which show a HEAVY reliance on demand reduction to achieve renewables goals. The chart on page 27 (29 of the pdf) shows “Ambitious goals” being met increasingly by energy efficiency.
            Finally, my comments address “grid power,” because I was responding to Annette’s comments about a grid snapshot. Indeed, the upshot of my first comment in reply to her (Feb 19 at 11:34AM) is that small users will produce a lot renewable power that is “perceived” by the grid only as a drop in demand. Additionally, there are a multitude of other possibilities which go beyond what we’re discussing here, which are also under active consideration by policy makers: load shifting, dynamic demand management, etc.

      • Willem Post

        If Vermont had 90% of its electrical energy from renewables at 2 to 5 times wholesale prices, it’s economy would be in shambles.

        • John Greenberg


          “If Vermont had 90% of its electrical energy from renewables at 2 to 5 times wholesale prices, it’s economy would be in shambles.”

          If grandmother had wheels, she’d be a bus.

          The 90% renewables figure INCLUDES electricity purchased from HQ at market prices. You’ve repeatedly told us we should buy MORE of it, so it’s more than a little self-contradictory to be condemning a figure which includes it here (and elsewhere). In addition, the goal is for the year 2050, 35 years from now.

          Additionally, your “2 to 5 times wholesale prices” is predicated on two assumptions, both of which are likely to be mistaken. The first assumption is that wholesale prices will remain more or less where they now are for the next 35 years. Wholesale rates were higher before the great recession than they are today, and at that time, virtually all the experts expected them to go MUCH higher in coming years. Given this past volatility, you’re making an assumption which, at the very best, requires a detailed set of analytical justifications. It’s far more probable that it’s just plain wrong; though, as I pointed out to Peter Yankowski above, the truth is that no one really knows. What’s certain is that it’s a highly speculative assumption masquerading as a factual statement.

          The same is even truer of the multiple you’re applying to renewable electricity. It not only assumes that we know WHICH kinds of renewable power will be generated in Vermont in the next 35 years, but it also assumes that the prices will remain where they are now, despite the fact that they have fallen precipitously in the last 5-10 years and virtually every analyst I’ve read believes that, at least in the case of solar, they will continue to do so.

          Combine the two, and you get a highly improbable hypothetical.

          • Willem Post


            RE costs of SPEED have been INCREASING for 4.5 years.

            According to you, they should have been decreasing.

            Here are the SPEED results.

            Here are the production results for the heavily subsidized SPEED Program, 2.2 MW or less. Note the RISING cost trend. It is mindless idiocy to be for SPEED, as it ultimately render uncompetitive Vermont’s private sector. Vermont’s government sector will protect itself by means of higher taxes.

            Year…….Production………Paid to Owners…….$/kWh……% VT Use
            2014…….62,865,075…….13,190,927.86………0.2098………1.13; after 4.5 years of RE build-outs!


            Excess payments during the past 5 years, based on New England average wholesale prices of about $0.054/kWh

            ………..Excess Payments…….Cent/kWh increase of electric bills
            2014…….$9,796,214………….0.18; rapidly increasing, as is the budget of Efficiency Vermont!

            The above “Paid to Owners” column shows the amount paid mostly to the risk-free tax shelters of in-state and out-of-state multi-millionaires, who own the larger PV solar systems. In the future, these “Paid-to-Owner” amounts be INCREASING by at least $5 million per year, as the table shows, courtesy of the PSB, et al. Those owners get compensated at an average of about 27 c/kWh for existing solar projects. This is coddling the seriously rich, at everyone else’s expense, using the lame excuse of “fighting global warning”!

            The “Excess Payments” were rolled into the electric rates of already-struggling households and no/near-zero profit businesses. These payments would have increased to about $62.5 million by 2017 had VT’s unrealistic SPEED goals been achieved. The main reason for the rapid increase is due to the PV solar feed-in tariff of an excessively high 25.7 c/kWh. The tariff is set by the PSB, based on a dubious rationale called “avoided cost-based prices”, but the On-Peak wholesale price, at which utilities buy some of their energy, hardly ever exceeds 8 c/kWh!

            The politically well-connected, multi-millionaires, with lucrative, no-risk, tax shelters, are benefitting the most from tax credits, fast write-offs, production tax credits and overly generous feed-in tariffs, to build solar plants (destroying meadows) and under-performing wind plants (destroying ridge lines) that produce variable, intermittent, grid-disturbing energy at 3-5 times New England wholesale prices; a sure way to further DECREASE the competitiveness of an already near-stagnant Vermont economy. Vermont’s government is coddling those wealthy multi-millionaires with RE programs that excessively waste scarce taxpayer money and would do practically nothing to reduce global warming.

            As ridgeline wind is dead, according to Klein, almost all other Vermont generated RE would be from solar.

            I hear very little about buying MORE energy from H-Q.

            IS IT RADIOACTIVE, or not politically correct?

          • Willem Post


            Annette Smith writes: “ISO-NE’s 2014 electricity outlook projects based on public policy and economic choices being made now that in the future the grid mix will be 55% natural gas, 40% wind and 5% other.”

            New England consumes about 125,000 GWh/yr, of which Vermont’s consumption is about 5,600 GWh/yr. With more heat pumps and electric vehicles, those levels of consumption will drastically increase by a factor of 2 or 3, even with increased energy efficiency, according to Blittersdorf, Angwin, et al.

            From government records we know the New England ANNUAL AVERAGE, ONSHORE, CF is about 0.26 for newer installations; some installations are higher, others lower.

            Number of ONSHORE 63 MW Lowell Mountain systems required in New England = (0.4 x 125,000,000 MWh)/(8,760 hr/yr x 0.26 x 63 MW) = 348 systems, of which Vermont ridge lines would have 5.6/125 x 348 = 16 systems.

            Capital cost = 348 x 63 x $2,800,000/MW = $61 billion, plus about 15 – 20 billion in grid upgrades, plus changing the mix of the OTHER generators for balancing the variable, intermittent energy, AND provide energy when wind is inadequate, including as low as 1 or 2% of energy on the NE system. The WHOLESALE cost of that energy would be about 10 – 15 c/kWh on shore and 20 – 25 c/kWh offshore.

            Germany, et al., have similarly low wind energy outputs during more or less UNPREDICTABLE periods.

            People should know by now, in New England, wind energy is zero, or near zero, about 30% of the hours of the year, and solar energy is zero, or near zero, about 65% of the hours of the year. Often both are near zero.

            That means ALL other generators need to be kept in good running order, staffed and fueled to provide almost ALL energy during these hours, and lesser quantities of energy, including for balancing the variable solar and wind energy, during other hours!! Two energy systems to do one job!

            The current NEK is perfectly adequate to serve the NEK demands, but feeding variable, intermittent wind energy into that grid causes excessive instabilities, as was found with the Lowell project.

            It is well known by DPS, PSB, GMP, VEC and Klein’s Committee, et al., the NEK would need at least $300 million of grid upgrades before significant variable, intermittent, grid disturbing, wind energy could be added. Just adding the cancelled, SENECA system would have cost $86 million in grid upgrades. GMP had to spend a total of about $20 million to connect the underperforming Lowell system to the grid.

            NOTE: Economically viable energy storage systems, other than hydro, have not yet been invented, and would take many billions of dollars and decades to deploy AFTER they are invented.

            If 50% of the wind turbine energy would be offshore and off shore CF = 0.40:

            Capital cost, 50% energy on-shore, 50% off-shore = $30.5 billion + $4,000,000/MW x (0.2 x 125,000,000)/(8760 x 0.40) = 30.5 + 28.5 = $59 billion, plus about 15 – 20 billion in grid upgrades, plus changing the mix of the OTHER generators for balancing the variable, intermittent energy, AND provide energy when wind is inadequate, including as low as 1 or 2% of energy on the NE system.

            Getting much more hydro energy from Hydro-Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador would involve about $5 – 8 billion in new HVDC lines, NO significant grid changes, NO significant generator mix changes, plus that energy would be at 5 – 7 c/kWh, per Dostis of GMP, who knows these numbers better than you or I, a MAJOR LONG-TERM plus for the New England economy.

  • Richard Ratico


    “How is this renewable energy 90% going to work?”

    That’s been explained here on VT digger many times. You may have focused on the wrong articles and comments. That being the case, here are a couple videos to help focus your attention.

    Here’s what mountaintop removal looks like in West Virginia:

    Here’s what nuclear power looks like when there’s a problem:

    • kevin goslant

      Richard, let West Virginians take care of themselves.

      “We’re not telling them they can’t mine,” Bo Webb told me. “We’ll put the windmills on top, they can mine coal underground, and everybody wins, right?” It would seem so

      “The problem, from the coal operator’s perspective, is that if too many people see wind turbines spinning across the peaks of Coal River Mountain, they might stop believing the industry’s hundred-year-old canard that coal is the region’s only hope.”

      RR, maybe you don`t get it. The ruling hegemony will do almost anything to build out RE AND continue FF and nuclear farm business as usual.

      Get ready to wage a nonviolent revolution.

      And the “Let VT show the country that RE can be successful” argument? Baseless. There are people like us everywhere.

  • Richard Ratico


    ““Let VT show the country that RE can be successful” argument? Baseless. There are people like us everywhere.”

    What do you mean by that? NIMBY’s are everywhere? You’ll do anything to block progress on RE, even if it means distorting the facts?

    What exactly is it you propose, Kevin? The last I knew, you expected little green men (aliens) to share the secrets of their flying saucer propulsion systems. It IS refreshing you name no longer links to the website selling the $15 DVDs describing UFO sightings. Thanks for that.

    Thanks also for the link to Orion Magazine. The folks in West Virginia apparently would be thrilled to see wind turbines on their mountains.

    “I look up at the ridgelines beyond the slurry pond and try to imagine them covered with wind turbines — 220 of them staggered along the peaks and side spurs of Coal River Mountain for thirty-six miles. A mere 267 acres would have to be cleared for the turbines, compared to the 6,450 acres that would be lost to mountaintop removal, and with a wind farm, the nine miles of streams that would be buried by mountaintop removal would remain healthy and full of life. I decide the tall white turbines would look quite elegant spinning slowly above the treeline. They would stand like sentinels, guarding the mountain from bulldozers and trucks carrying explosives.

    • I mean a rationalization for VT RE build out is to show it can be done.

      Thought you`d like that link. It shows people are the same most everywhere. If WV can`t save their own mountains why should we sacrifice ours. The difference VT ridge line wind would make is the air pocket left after you pulled your fist out of a bucket of water.

      I did some computer cleaning and my name lost it`s link.
      I still propose sequestered zeropoint, aka Tesla… / The shadow gov has ETID (extraterrestrial inter dimensional) tech.

      Is that a laugh I hear? Shadow gov? Don`t tell me you believe the official 911 report.
      And don`t tell me you`re an atheist. Sorry to get so personal but the fate of humanity, ridge lines and the oppressed 99% are on the line.

      It`s the oligarchy we should be opposing,
      not each other.

    • Annette Smith

      Some of the highest bat mortality has been found at West Virginia wind projects. That may partly be because credible experts (not the usual suspects hired by the wind industry) were given access to the site. Building wind turbines along bat migratory routes means you get a lot of dead bats.

      • John Greenberg

        Annette Smith writes: “Some of the highest bat mortality has been found at West Virginia wind projects.” Presumably, she means the highest mortality among wind projects.

        It makes no sense to fail to compare wind to other generating sources unless you’re prepared to advocate against all use of electricity. The relevant comparison is to OTHER potential source, not, as here, to nothing. Fortunately, in this case, the comparison has been carried out by a responsible government agency.

        NYSERDA [NY State Energy Research and Development Authority] studied 6 electricity generating types in the NY/New England region specifically comparing their risks to vertebrate wildlife: coal, hydro, nuclear, oil, natural gas, and wind. Guess which one caused the least risk.

        • So John, you and Richard agree: W Virginians are responsible for THEIR Mountain tops and Vermonters are not obligated to turn their state into a carnival ride theme park, hot air balloon side show exposition for McKibben`s wall street vultures.

  • Richard Ratico


    Please provide evidence of bat mortality due to wind turbines in Vermont. That’s what we’re discussing after all.

    Concerning West Virginia, it would be helpful if you would provide links to the work of the “credible experts” you mentioned.