Solarfest Attendees Consider Utility Merger

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(Host)  Thousands of people gathered in Tinmouth this weekend for Solarfest. The annual event promotes renewable energy through arts, music and education.  

As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, many at this year’s festival were talking about the proposed merger of Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power – especially the promise to make Rutland Vermont’s first solar city.

(Keck) When it comes to energy, you’ll find lots of information and lots of opinions at Solarfest. But many people who were attending workshops, listening to music of manning booths at the event  say they’re not quite sure what to make of the proposed sale of CVPS. Chris Williams was one of them.   

(Williams) "I live in Hancock, Vermont. I’m a CVPS customer. I heard the solar city concept and I’ve been waiting to see how it’s spelled out and what it really means."

(Keck)   Like many at Solarfest, Williams says a lot will depend on how much Green Mountain Power and it’s parent company Gaz Metro plan to invest.

(Williams) "To create a solar city, we’re talking panels on every roof top program. We’re talking millions and millions here to make the lives of Rutlanders better.  I could get behind something like that. Couple hundred grand to make a little showplace – or whatever – no sale there."

(Keck) Green Mountain Power hasn’t specified how much they plan to spend on the solar city concept, but the company says in the coming weeks, a committee of Rutland area leaders and interested residents will be announced to help develop and direct the efforts. Green Mountain Power also plans to create a $100,000 fund to create and support green sector jobs and technologies in Rutland. Gene Bertsche of Middletown Springs has been in the solar industry for 25 years. Watching people walk past his booth at Solarfest, he says it’s a start.

(Bertsche) "Obviously awareness helps us as we’re attempting to market and sell and bring to fruition the next generation of renewable energy technologies.  But it has to be more than a green state.  And it has to be more than words.  It has to be action."

(Keck) Don Kreis, associate director of the institute for energy and the environment at the Vermont Law School says everyone will be watching to see how Green Mountain Power fulfills its promises. But he thinks just putting the idea of a solar city out there was shrewd.

(Kreis) "There’s so much skepticism in Vermont about wind power these days that I think solar power is something that everybody tends to embrace across the spectrum.  And there’ a lot of undeveloped capacity in solar that’s just waiting for the financial conditions that will make it feasible."

(Keck) The sale still needs to be scrutinized by regulators. Kreis says that’s when everything will be on the table and he says that’s the time to put the new owners to the test.   

For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck.

What are your thoughts on the the proposed merger of Central Vermont Public Service and Green Mountain Power? Let us know in the comments section below.

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