Douglas calls for transmission line upgrade

Bob Kinzel
MONTPELIER, VT (2003-08-20)

(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says last week's electrical outage in many parts of the Northeast demonstrates the need for the proposed transmission line upgrade. However some energy analysts think the governor's approach may be shortsighted.

VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The Vermont Electric Power Company wants to upgrade its transmission lines between West Rutland and Burlington as a way to bring more electricity into Chittenden County to meet a growing need for power in the northwestern region of the state. Vermont's peak energy needs in the summer months now exceed the winter peak driven largely by an increased demand for commercial and residential air conditioning.

Douglas says last week's power blackout shows the need to strengthen the region's power grid system and he says the VELCO project is part of that effort:

(Douglas) "We've got to have lines that will transmit the power successfully so that we don't have an interruption of supply so that we have a reliable source so I think it makes sense the Public service Department and Board will review the proposal the Health Department will review to make sure there's no impact on human health but it seems to me we need to have a reliable way of transmitting power to all parts of our state."

(Kinzel) Douglas says the proposed transmission line is also needed to boost economic development in and around Chittenden County - a situation that he says was highlighted earlier this week when IBM reduced its workforce by 500 employees.

Former Public Service Board Chairman Richard Cowart who now works for an organization that assists utility regulators around the world, hasn't had a chance to fully evaluate the VELCO proposal. But Cowart thinks policy makers should consider implementing a number of other options before deciding to build expensive new power lines:

(Cowart) "Investing strategically in strategically located distributive generation - like combined heat and power applications and energy efficiency and load management - can substantially improve reliability at lower cost, essentially. Lightening the load at the end of the line has the effect of lightening the stresses on the distribution system, the local sub-station, the transmission grid - and also avoids the need to purchase power in the first place."

(Kinzel) The Public Service Board will hold hearings on this project next month.

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