Vermont Governor Pushes Renewable Energy

The outgoing governor of Vermont, Howard Dean, has warned that the state has some tough decisions ahead to meet its future energy needs. Among other things, he says Vermont should look to renewable energy.

BURLINGTON, Vermont, US, 2001-09-27 [SolarAccess.com] In addition to nationwide problems of energy security, there will be several special factors as Vermont’s electrical use grows by 100,000 megawatt-hours per year over the next decade and the large Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor has an uncertain lifespan. Dean, a final-term governor, says the state can meet electricity demand for the next decade through a combination of renewable energy, energy efficiency and use of small power plants and “relying less on large fossil-fuel plants.” The nuclear facility generates one third of Vermont’s electricity, but its license is due to expire in 2012. Utilities purchase another one-third of electricity from Hydro-Quebec, but these contracts phase out in coming years. The governor says Vermont’s power supplies appear to be adequate until then, providing that small, renewable sources of wind turbines and solar systems are installed and that the state continues its push for conservation measures. A US$750,000 settlement the state received from oil companies for past overcharging will be used to diversify energy sources and most likely would be used to pay rebates for solar and wind systems, he predicts. “Although energy matters are subject to market and political forces far beyond Vermont’s borders, the state has considerable regulatory and legislative authority over utility issues,” says a recent editorial in a Vermont newspaper. “A shift to alternative sources, for example, would have major ramifications for the state’s utility companies. The wrong decisions on electricity could cripple Vermont’s ability to compete in a high-tech economy.” Six months ago, Dean said Vermont needed to begin planning for a major new power plant which might burn coal. He later backed off the remark and recently repeated that his call for a coal-fired plant was merely to focus the state’s attention on energy issues. The governor was encouraged to consider efficiency by the first-year performance of Efficiency Vermont, a statewide ‘efficiency utility’ set up to take over energy conservation programs previously run by individual utilities. In its first year, the concept saved $17 million on electric bills, cutting demand by enough power to supply 3,000 homes.
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