Utilities get bids from new power sources

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(Host) Windmills, solar panels, even coal could provide electricity to Vermont in coming years.

The state’s three largest electric utilities have been looking for generators that could replace power contracts that begin to expire in three years.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, the utilities found dozens of companies that would like to sell them power.

(Sneyd) Hydro-Quebec and Vermont Yankee are the power plants that for years have kept the lights on in Vermont.

They supply two-thirds of the electricity sold in Vermont. But with contracts for that power set to expire, the biggest utilities decided to band together in search of replacements.

Central Vermont Public Service, Green Mountain Power and Vermont Electric Cooperative issued a joint “request for proposals” for up to 100 megawatts of power.

Bob Young is president of Central Vermont.

(Young) “We recognize our responsibility to replace power contracts that we’re losing in the next eight to 10 years. And this is just another important milestone event. It’s in effect the first time we’ve gone to the market and we’re actually getting real bids for power to replace what we potentially would lose with HQ and VY in the 2012, 2016 time frame.”

(Sneyd) Several dozen companies responded with proposed deals. In total, the utilities could get more than 1,000 megawatts, though they’re only looking for 100 right now.

The proposals run the gamut. Some would be short-term contracts of a year or so. Others would be for 20 years. There are bids from Vermont companies and many from outside the state.

And the power that’s generated would come from a variety of fuel sources – including wood and coal. And renewables, such as wind, solar and hydro.

(Powell) “We feel confident that so far it looks like we got some good choices in that regard.”

(Sneyd) Mary Powell is president of Green Mountain Power. She says her company expects to sign contracts for 40 megawatts of power in the next few months.

GMP won’t judge the bids only on price. The Vermont utilities also want clean power that has a small carbon footprint.

Hydro-Quebec and Vermont Yankee did not bid in this round. The utilities are negotiating with both for new contracts.

Powell says she can’t describe any of the specific proposals. But she warns customers to expect higher bills, no matter what company supplies the power.

(Powell) “The issue is how much and how much can we try to influence that by prudent planning. So that really is an important piece that we all keep in the top of our minds as we move forward is that the market forces have driven market prices up.”

(Sneyd) The utilities say they hope to sign new contracts by March or April. They say more will follow over the next few years.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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