(Host) The state’s recent trade mission to China was supposed to raise the profile of Vermont’s energy and environmental businesses.
But the trip did not include companies and consultants that have many years of experience in China.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Back in January the Legislature was studying global warming issues. China was discussed a number of times, because the fast-growing economy is a huge producer of greenhouse gases.
Former Public Service Board Chairman Richard Cowart has been to China a number of times. And Vermont, he said, is well-known in that country as an innovator in energy efficiency. Cowart told lawmakers that the Chinese government has turned to Vermonters for advice on how to control its growth in energy demand.
(Cowart) “And we have great models to show to the world. And I can speak personally to this. I’ve spent a lot of time in China, and in China I was told recently there’s two states in the United States that they like to pay attention to: California and Vermont. They think Vermont is a really big state. And they’re very interested in models like Efficiency Vermont.”
(Dillon) But this month’s trade mission to China did not include any of the Vermont energy experts who have worked there.
(Belliveau) “We have done quite a bit of work in China, consulting work for the Asian Development Bank, but we were not consulted by the governor in reference to his latest trip in China.”
(Dillon) Eric Belliveau is with Optimal Energy in Bristol. The consulting firm specializes in energy efficiency and renewable energy. He says the state may have missed an opportunity in the China trip to promote Vermont’s expertise in energy work.
That’s also the view of Rick Weston, who works for the Regulatory Assistance Project, a non- profit organization that advises governments on utility issues.
Weston has traveled to China extensively to work on energy issues. He said state officials sought his advice shortly before they headed overseas.
(Weston) “Was there an opportunity missed? If the purpose of the trip was really to advance Vermont’s expertise and take advantage of what Vermont has to offer, sure there was an opportunity missed. It just so happens, though, that our work in China has nothing to do whatsoever with Vermont state government, and will go on and we’re going to be effective regardless.”
(Dillon) Public Service Commissioner David O’Brien has just returned from the governor’s trade mission. He said the trip was open to any Vermont company. And he’s clearly annoyed by the criticism that the state did not take full advantage of the Vermont China experts.
(O’Brien) “I was only trying to, quite frankly, reinforce what these gentlemen have been doing in China and to further the work that we can be doing there. So it really comes as a disappointment that we’re hearing this sort of chatter now. It seems pretty counter-productive, I guess I would say.”
(Dillon) Rick Weston, of the Regulatory Assistance Project, says Efficiency Vermont, which works to reduce electricity use is well respected among Chinese energy officials. But he says Vermont experts in the efficiency field saw a bit of a disconnect between the governor’s trade mission and his recent veto of a global warming bill.
(Weston) “Certainly the irony of the administration going to China to tout Vermont’s progressive slant on energy only days after he vetoed a bill dedicated to expanding our investment in cost-effective energy efficiency is certainly not lost on many people watching.”
(Dillon) The China trip did not yield specific sales contracts or agreements. But officials say the trip did raise the profile of Vermont and Vermont environmentally oriented businesses.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.