Campaign for Vermont: State can maintain low carbon footprint and reduce electric costs
While renewable energy is well meaning, it is driving the cost of electricity higher in Vermont, which leads to money being diverted from consumers while also discouraging businesses from investing in the state, according to the Campaign for Vermont.
The policy group, led by Bruce Lisman, recently issued an energy-related position paper. It says that Vermonters pay some of the highest electric rates, on average, in the nation, and though the state also has one of the country’s smallest “carbon footprints,” the state’s size is so small that the benefits to the environment from that amount to very little when looking at the entire carbon output of the US.
The CFV would prefer that the state rollback renewable energy requirements that are driving the cost increases and wait for renewable energy technology to decline in price before re-instituting government mandates. In its view, the current electric costs will damage the state’s economy without making a substantial contribution in reducing global warming.
The “ENERGIZING PROSPERITY, A position paper by Campaign for Vermont Prosperity” was released October 5. It can also be accessed HERE or through its Web site at www.campaignforvermont.org. The executive summary and supporting materials are copied below.
“Clean, affordable, safe, and reliable energy, especially electricity, is a cornerstone to affordable living, a diversified, dynamic, competitive economy, and a low carbon footprint. Yet despite the State of Vermont’s professed desire to provide low cost, low carbon energy, our citizens and businesses pay among the highest electric rates in the country and New England while remaining highly dependent upon carbon-emitting fossil fuels for transportation and home heating.
“Campaign for Vermont believes a thoughtful blend of positive economic and environmental goals, not politics, ideology or cronyism, should drive Vermont’s energy policy. Competitive electricity prices are vital to any renewal of manufacturing and other job sectors dependent on low cost reliable energy. Competitive electricity prices matter to every business operating on a razor-thin profit margin. While “green” energy jobs are valued, they are not as important as jobs created and sustained more broadly in an economy supported by overall low energy costs. Lower electricity costs also promote affordable living for all consumers, most especially for lower-income Vermonters for whom unnecessarily high residential rates are tantamount to a regressive tax on a basic necessity.
“Campaign for Vermont believes, therefore, that clean, competitively priced energy, especially electricity, is a social good. At present, the State of Vermont aggressively forces utilities to buy very high cost electricity from solar, wind and small hydro dam developers, thus unnecessarily driving up electric rates. This is a misguided energy and economic policy in response to legitimate concerns about climate change. While recognizing that Vermont has an enviable carbon footprint, Vermont can best address further reductions in carbon while promoting economic prosperity with policies that encourage competitively priced electricity.
“Vermont’s current approach pushes electric rates artificially high, thus discouraging cost-conscious consumers from switching from fossil based fuels to electricity for transportation and heating. A grassroots shift away from fossil fuels to other forms of power requires underlying economic costs to be competitive. The state’s political leadership and the Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) have failed to give consumers the competitive tools for change, so our citizens remain overly dependent on high-cost, high-polluting fossil-fuels.
“When it comes to competitively priced electricity, Vermont is way out of step and heading in the wrong direction relative to our national and regional competitors.
“In fact, since 2008, Vermont’s residential, commercial and industrial electric rates have increased by 17.5%, 14.9% and 10.8% respectively while comparable rates in New England have dropped by 11.1%, 11.9% and 8.3%. Relative to national averages, Vermont’s rates are an eye popping 40% higher.
“Reducing energy costs is not a pipe dream. In nearby Massachusetts, many ratepayers have seen double-digit slashing of their power bills within the last year. The infinitesimal rate decrease proposed recently by Green Mountain Power Corporation (GMP) is not enough. Campaign for Vermont believes Vermont can significantly reduce all-fuels energy costs and our carbon footprint over the next decade by providing consumers access to cheaper and cleaner alternatives to oil.
“State government and the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) can act to lower electricity rates and encourage the construction of vital energy infrastructure that places the power of choice back in the hands of consumers. Informed Vermonters will be empowered to lead the way to a cleaner, more prosperous future, if given the opportunity.”
Along with reducing the emphasis on renewable, CFV made several “Energizing Prosperity Recommendations:”
Vermont can reduce the cost of electricity by increasing use of nuclear, large-scale hydro and natural gas. Instead of relying on more-costly wind and solar, low carbon alternatives are readily available by increasing hydro from Quebec, making more use of natural gas available from shale deposits in Pennsylvania, New York and Quebec, and from nuclear power plants in the region, though Vermont Yankee was not mentioned directly. CFV called for working with Quebec and the other New England states to expand transmission lines from Quebec.
It also wants expansion of natural gas lines. CFV said that high-carbon heating fuels like oil, which is the most common source in Vermont, could be reduced by natural gas and electric heating if pipelines were extended and the cost of electricity reduced.
As for renewables, CFV said that if consumers would still have the choice of buying renewable power as long as they were willing to pay the higher rates for it.
Also, it said the renewable subsidies should be reduced and capped: “Vermont’s Feed-In-Tariff policy relating to renewable energy development should be capped at the 8 MWh level already implemented and expansion to 50 MWh should be abandoned, otherwise this policy will cost ratepayers an estimated $17.3 million or 2.2 percent in higher rates. The further expansion recently passed by the legislature in accord with their 75 percent renewable energy goal in 20 years should also be rescinded. Also, state policies relating to financial subsidies for the Feed-In-Tariff and Net Metering should be linked to market prices, not the cost of power production. Vermont’s residents and businesses already pay among the highest electric rates in the country and the PSB should be allowed by the Governor and legislature to chart a better course, as their core mission requires, making Vermont more competitive, not less competitive regarding electric rates.”
The CFV also suggests that transportation policy makers should develop infrastructure that supports electric and natural gas fueled motor vehicles provided these fuels are cost competitive with current fuels, as part of the state’s efforts to maintain its low carbon footprint.
In conclusion, the CFV paper stated: “This document is meant to encourage public discussion about consumer-empowered transition to low-cost, low-carbon energy.”
Graphs provided by CFV.