House supports plan for energy independence

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(Host) The Vermont House has endorsed legislation to make the state more energy independent over the next decade. The legislation calls on the state to expedite the construction of renewable energy projects and it calls for a public education process to help determine the state’s future energy sources.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation addresses the fact that a significant portion of Vermont’s electricity comes from two major sources: Hydro Quebec and the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. The Hydro Quebec contract expires in 2016 and Vermont Yankee’s license expires in 2012, although the plant is seeking an extension.

The legislation calls for a public education and planning process to help shape Vermont’s energy future. It also requires the state to develop a comprehensive program to maximize energy efficiency in all buildings, and it instructs the Public Service Board to expedite the construction of new renewable energy projects.

Natural Resources chairman Robert Dostis told his colleagues that it’s critical for the state to take an active role with these issues:

(Dostis) “Vermont’s long term contracts will end and now is the time to do what we can top secure a future where we control as much of our electric market as possible. Our options are limited and every choice available to us has its trade offs. However, to do nothing, to take no action, to leave it to the market would put Vermont in a very vulnerable position.”

(Kinzel) Dostis says it’s also critical for the state to develop new energy efficiency and conservation programs:

(Dostis) “By diversifying our electricity portfolio, developing in-state generation and promoting renewable energy and maximizing efficiency, we will enhance Vermont’s energy independence and support our economic vitality and competitive advantage. In addition, we protect Vermonters from the burden of high electric costs, especially those who are already struggling to pay for basic needs.”

(Kinzel) Bennington Representative Joseph Krawcyck says the public needs to be directly involved in reviewing potential future energy sources:

(Krawcyck) “Do we want to rely on a wholesale energy market that is heavily dependent on fossil fuel generation and escalating and unstable pricing? Do we want to see a continuation of our nuclear power generation in the state of Vermont? Do we want to see more investment in renewables, such as wind, solar and small hydro? Or should we invest more in energy efficiency and conservation? These are only some of the choices that Vermonters must wrestle with in the near term if we are to develop an energy policy that will secure our energy future.”

(Kinzel) The measure will come up for final approval in the House on Friday.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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