Sunday, October 05, 2003

Energy money should stay in state

The ratepayers of Vermont do not want to pay to turn into an electricity freeway.

By Judy Kowalczyk

The Oct. 1 Free Press article, "Businesses back power line upgrades," mentions viewpoints of Scott Carpenter from the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and Lisa Ventriss of the Vermont Business Roundtable.
I would ask both of them to do a little more homework before making their claims that they represent "businesses across the state" on the VELCO issue.
Currently, there are 350 signatures in support of choosing the alternatives to the project, many from small-business owners. In Addison County, where the huge 345-kV lines will be placed for use by Chittenden County, most small businesspeople would much prefer the alternatives to the VELCO project. Even in downtown Burlington, folks are choosing the alternatives.
There are things you should know about the VELCO plan. In a state where we care about the environment, this project is one that focuses on using polluting energy and allowing people to consume more electricity, instead of educating themselves on how to manage energy use. These lines hook us into the exact things Vermonters do not want to support: buying power from out of state; the use of more carbon-dioxide producing energy; more nukes, coal, gas and oil.
The money for the project will go to one company in state, VELCO. The rest will circulate out of state, buying power from elsewhere. We need to keep the money here in Vermont. Distributed generation mixed with efficiency makes the most sense. As shown in a report done for VELCO, if costs of energy efficiency programs (which include renewables and newer technologies) are $600 million, benefits to Vermont would generate $1.2 billion. That money stays here in Vermont, generating new small businesses and jobs throughout Vermont! All the money comes back to us and we save one-third of the energy we use.
It is one thing to repair the infrastructure we already have. It is another thing to purchase six times the infrastructure we need. The new 345-kV lines carry six Burlingtons' worth of power. Imagine growing six more Burlingtons: We wouldn't even be Vermont any more.
What is going to be done with all this capacity? Vermont will become an energy highway for Canada to Massachusetts, Connecticut, etc. Once these large-capacity connections are developed, under federal law, the lines must be made available to all who agree to pay standard charges. The lines will not be able to be set aside to serve Vermont need. The ratepayers of Vermont do not want to pay to turn into an electricity freeway.
We need to save energy where we can through serious conservation and alternatives. But when we do generate and distribute power, we should do it the way we built the Internet -- a massively distributed operation where generation is close to the customers. We'll have a safer, less expensive, and more reliable system.

Judy Kowalczyk is a business owner in Middlebury.