VPIRG Issues Own Proposal for State Energy Plan

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(Host) The Vermont Public Research Interest Group is releasing a 20 year state energy plan on Monday that calls for a much greater emphasis on conservation programs and renewable energy sources. Public Service Department Commissioner David O’Brien dismissed the proposal as a political document that contains misleading information.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports

(Kinzel) The VPIRG plan is designed to provide Vermont with all its electrical energy needs without relying on power from Vermont Yankee after its license runs out in 2012, or from Hydro Quebec after the state’s contract expires in 2016. Instead, the VPIRG proposal calls for dramatic increases in energy efficiency programs, the development of hydro sources and a much larger commitment to large commercial wind operations – including the development of wind turbines on state land, something Governor Jim Douglas is trying to block.

VPIRG spokesperson Azur Mouleart says the state needs to take some bold steps for its energy future:

(Mouleart) “At VPIRG we believe that energy should be clean, safe, reliable and affordable. In the past year the Douglas administration has issued two energy plans. Both of them rely on dirty, dangerous and expensive sources of energy and surrender the state’s responsibility for planning to profit utilities.”

(Kinzel) The plan calls for the state to get about one-sixth of its future energy from wind projects. Mouleart thinks this is a realistic goal:

(Mouleart) “In the long run what we are saying is that 15 to 20 percent of the energy in Vermont, depending who you ask, can come from wind development – carefully, thoughtfully sited wind development in specific areas. We’re talking about ten or twelve projects. It’s not like we’re going to pave the Long Trail and put a bunch of windmills along there, no. That is not the point.”

(Kinzel) Public Service Department Commissioner David O’Brien says most of VPIRG’s goals are unrealistic and in some cases are misleading:

(O’Brien) “Let’s be clear that VPIRG is enmeshed in politics not a policy discussion. It’s the campaign season, the rhetoric is heating up. Unfortunately their actions to date on the energy plan reflect they’re not interested in a genuine discussion of energy policy.”

(Kinzel) And O’Brien can’t understand why VPIRG is so opposed to an extension of the state’s power contract with Hydro Quebec:

(O’Brien) “Hydro Quebec power for us in Vermont is a reliable, very reliable source of base load power at a price that is increasingly looking good compared to what’s going on in the market today, in terms of wholesale power market prices.”

(Kinzel) O’Brien says he has serious concerns about the development of large scale commercial wind projects in Vermont. He says the construction of roads and power lines associated with these operations could have a significant environmental impact on nearby land.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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