VELCO says upgrade is key to energy reliability

COLCHESTER, VT (2003-11-12)

(Host) The manager of VELCO's proposed transmission line upgrade in northwestern Vermont says the project is needed to ensure the reliable delivery of electricity to the region in the future. The proposal would upgrade VELCO's lines between West Rutland and South Burlington at a cost of roughly $128 million however Vermont ratepayers would only be responsible for approximately 5% of these costs. Ratepayers throughout New England would pay the remaining 95% because the project has been identified as being essential to the regional energy grid.

Speaking Tuesday night on VPR's Switchboard program, project manager Tom Dunn said it will be very difficult to meet the region's growing summer demand for power without this upgrade:

(Dunn) "What I think happens is that the probability of having problems increases as the amount of electricity demand increases over time. We get into strained periods when events could happen - things like losing transmission lines or key pieces of equipment could result in uncontrolled loss of customers in Vermont."

(Host) But Mark Sinclair, senior attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation, argues that it makes much more sense to invest this money in aggressive energy conservation programs - a move that Sinclair says will not commit the state to expensive power contracts in the future:

(Sinclair) "It's time for Vermont to lead the country in approaching these energy issues in a different way, in a more innovative way, in a more progressive way. If we can't do it in Vermont then we're going to be seeing massive upgrades in transmission capability across the country without looking at less costly ways of achieving reliability in our grid."

(Host) The issue is being reviewed by the Vermont Public Service Board. A decision by the PSB is expected sometime next year.