Utilities Look For Power Sources To Replace Yankee

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(Host) With Vermont Yankee facing an uncertain future, utilities are busy looking at other power sources for the decade ahead.

The companies say they see a variety of options if they need to replace electricity they now get from the nuclear plant.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) It’s a good time to be buying electricity wholesale. Mary Powell is the CEO of Green Mountain Power. She says it’s a buyers market out there.

(Powell) It is a good environment, frankly, for bad reasons, because of the recession. It’s a good environment to have to be making power purchases.

(Dillon) GMP and Central Vermont Public Service Corporation have not been able to reach a deal to buy electricity from Vermont Yankee, for power generated if the plant wins a new license to operate after 2012.

The plant’s future is more in doubt these days because of recent radiation leaks and disclosures that the company repeatedly gave state officials misleading information.

Even before the recent news, utilities were making contingency plans for a future without Vermont Yankee.

Brian Keefe is vice president of Central Vermont Public Service Corporation, the state’s largest electric utility. He says CVPS, along with GMP and the Vermont Electric Co-op, have lined up a blend of power sources to replace some of electricity they now get from the nuclear plant.

(Keefe) And so between the three utilities, this is power that would come on line in March of 2012 for the most part. Whether or not there’s a power supply from Vermont Yankee at that point, this helps diversify our needs. It helps leads us to the next stage from a contract perspective.

(Dillon) It’s difficult to make an exact comparison between the Yankee price and these new power supplies, because the new contracts are for a shorter time period.

Both CVPS and GMP are also seeking bids for electricity in case Vermont Yankee is not re-licensed. Keefe says the potential sources include HydroQuebec and electricity from natural gas plants.

(Keefe) There’s a lot of power out there in the market and we are not locked down to any one particular source.

(Dillon) But both CVPS and GMP would like to have some Vermont Yankee power in their portfolios. Mary Powell at GMP said the nuclear energy helps meet the utility’s goal of having power sources that are low in carbon emissions.

But she says the first question is whether the plant is safe. Powell says the public’s confidence in Yankee has been shaken.

(Powell) We are really disappointed in terms of where we are with Vermont Yankee. We support another really good review of what’s going on.

(Dillon) The Vermont Electric Cooperative based in Johnson has been out in the electricity market and recently found a favorable deal.

Craig Kieny is senior resource manager for the co-op. He says the price is competitive with what Entergy Vermont Yankee has offered for sales after 2012.

(Kieny) We purchased a contract at prices that are very similar to what Entergy is talking about with CV and GMP. And we purchased an amount that would replace about 50 percent of what we’re currently buying from VY.

(Dillon) The state’s other electric cooperative, Washington Electric Co-op based in East Montpelier, has charted a future without Vermont Yankee. Washington Electric gets much of its electricity from generators that burn methane gas produced at a landfill in the Northeast Kingdom.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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