JOHNSON – The Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) Board of Directors passed a resolution that recommended a moratorium of up to two years on renewable power supply mandates.
The recommendation will be made to the Vermont Legislature.
The board of directors' meeting agenda stated that the topic was geared towards new wind turbine power projects, but the discussion evolved to include all renewable projects as the talks ensued, explained Liz Gamache, spokesperson with VEC.
The meeting was well attended by VEC customers despite bad weather, with about 11 speakers. Some board meetings have no members present at all, she said.
Eight directors voted in favor of the resolution with one opposing and one abstaining. Two directors were absent. Several VEC members from the Northeast Kingdom were present and spoke against further industrial wind development.
The VEC discussion focused on concerns on costs and reliability. The VEC board expressed a need to address
issues such as grid instability from intermittent renewables such as wind and solar, along with human health issues, Gamache said.
VEC also recommends that a statewide panel representing all stakeholders, including utility customers, be involved in developing a renewable energy transition plan addressing these issues.
"This resolution summarizes nearly two years of discussions that have been taking place at the board level. It reflects the sentiment of VEC members who are concerned about finding balance between rising electric rates and the adoption of a greener power portfolio," said CEO Dave Hallquist.
Hallquist warned that without a cost-effective energy storage solution for intermittent renewables like wind and solar, and with current technology and costs, electric rates could increase significantly.
However, this was not exactly what strong, local ridge line opponents had in mind, said Steve Wright of Craftsbury, with the Mountain Occupiers, a group of activists opposed to industrial wind projects. He would have preferred the resolution focused on wind alone.
“That's the problem in the Northeast Kingdom,” he said in an email after the meeting. “I worry that the message, "Let's take a timeout and get this right," will be diluted by David Hallquist's insistence on changing the renewable energy requirements in the SPEED program. It seems like political ‘Nowhere’s-Wille’ to me.”
The Resolution of the Board of Directors read as follows:
WHEREAS, it is unclear at this time whether the electric grid will be able to accommodate renewable generation projects in excess of 20% of the supply needs in Vermont without adverse effects, including voltage instability (which can cause significant damage to industrial equipment) and potential curtailments of lower cost base-load generation (as has been experienced in the Pacific Northwest and Texas);
WHEREAS, currently, VEC is approaching having 20% of its power portfolio being supplied by renewable resources, including First Wind's Sheffield project, Kingdom Community Wind and net metered and SPEED projects;
WHEREAS, no cost-effective storage solutions presently exist to enable larger penetrations of intermittent renewables, such as solar or wind projects;
WHEREAS, industrial-scale wind development has created an unhealthy division in communities that surround such projects, particularly since the current carbon footprint of electricity represents only 4% of the total Vermont carbon footprint; and
WHEREAS, a moratorium on wind projects, if not coupled with a moratorium on other renewable mandates, will limit renewable options for distribution utilities primarily to solar projects, which will certainly be more expensive, thus raising power costs for all members. For example, based on current technology and costs, if VEC were to meet the renewable goals set in the 2011 Vermont Comprehensive Energy plan without industrial-scale wind, VEC projects that its members could see an increase in electric rates of approximately 90%:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, as follows:
The VEC Board of Directors recommends that the Vermont Legislature impose a moratorium for a period of two years effective on January 1, 2013, on further renewable power supply mandates or sooner if the grid instability, human health impacts, and cost issues have been addressed and a transition plan is in place that considers the cost and reliability impacts of moving to higher levels of renewable resources. VEC further recommends that a statewide panel be formed, representing all stakeholders - including utility customers - to create such a transition plan.