Senate approves public power authority

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The Vermont Senate has advanced legislation to create a public power authority that would sell electricity produced by Connecticut River hydro dams. Advocates say it would allow the state to provide environmentally friendly, low cost power.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) Vermont took the first steps toward public power almost a year ago when the Legislature set up a state panel to look into buying hydroelectric projects on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers. That commission is now negotiating with a private company to buy a 25 percent stake in the power dams.

The new legislation sets up a power authority that will step in and manage the state’s interest in the dams, if the deal goes through. Windsor County Democrat Peter Welch says the power authority may fulfill a long-held ambition to use the Connecticut River’s energy resources for the benefit of the state.

(Welch) “It gives us a chance to take much more control over our energy future.”

(Dillon) The power authority would be run by seven people. One of the directors has to represent retail customers and none of the directors would be allowed to work for an electric utility. The Senate Finance Committee also added language to the bill that limits the ability of the power authority to compete with the state’s existing power companies. The authority would only be able to sell electricity at wholesale, not directly to Vermont customers.

The state’s utilities support the bill, but said they were concerned about the amount of protection it would give them under all circumstances.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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