Cummings says state’s long-term energy plan is lacking

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(Host) Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Ann Cummings says she’s disappointed with a new twenty-year energy plan proposed by the Douglas Administration. Cummings say the plan downplays the role of conservation and doesn’t provide specifics about the state’s energy future. Governor Jim Douglas is defending the proposal.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Cummings says she’s concerned that the 20-year energy plan was written without any public input and appears to favor lower energy costs for large users of electricity. She says it lacks any meaningful discussion about the future of role of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant and doesn’t seriously consider the possibility of having the state purchase a series of hydro dams along the Connecticut River:

(Cummings) “I think my major criticism is that this doesn’t meet my definition of a plan that- a plan needs to start with just at least mention the last 20-year plan; talk about what we succeeded in, what we failed, what our goals are, and where we’re going from here. There’s no continuity to this plan. It talks about what Vermonters want but as far as we can see, there’s been no public input in this.”

(Kinzel) Cummings is also critical of the proposal because she says it downplays the importance of conservation in meeting the state’s future energy needs:

(Cummings) “What is the potential for saving? How long can we use conservation to protect and maintain our energy needs? And at what point are we going to have to start adding new [energy], what would be the best new energy to add? How do we get it at the lowest price and the most reliability? These are the kinds of in depth analysis I expect in a plan – not just graphs comparing our energy uses with the rest of the country.”

(Kinzel) The governor says the Department of Public Service will hold public hearings on the draft plan next month. And while Douglas says he supports conservation efforts, he argues it cannot provide the state with all of its future energy needs:

(Douglas) “There certainly is a commitment to energy efficiency, it’s one that I share and so does the Department. I don’t think it’s the complete answer to our energy future. That’s why it’s important to develop that long-range plan as the department is now doing.”

(Kinzel) The Department has shifted the time of its first public hearing on the plan. The hearing was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon January 6 at exactly the same time that the governor is set to deliver his state of the state address. The first hearing will now be held the day before – on Monday January 5.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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