Bill targets ‘renewable’ status of Big Hydro

One of Hydro-Quebec’s many electricity-generating plants. Photo Hydro-Quebec

Beginning next January, carbon-free power produced by dams 200 megawatts or larger will become 10% less “renewable” every year for state energy standard purposes, according to a bill introduced Tuesday in the Vermont House of Representatives.

H557 is an effort to make Big Hydro – mostly from New York and Canada – less available as an option to meet the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) mandate the Legislature gave utilities in 2017. 

Under the RES, Vermont’s utilities must procure a defined percentage of their total retail electric sales from renewable energy. The requirement started at 55% in 2017, increasing 4% annually until reaching 75% in 2032. 

Hydro-electric power is indisputably renewable energy, as defined by state law: “energy produced using a technology that relies on a resource that is being consumed at a harvest rate at or below its natural regeneration rate.” Snow melts, rain falls, rivers flow, turbines spin. 

Contracts with Hydro-Quebec [HQ] and upstate New York generators provide about 20% of the state’s electricity. The state’s 84 tiny power dams, by contrast, together have a generating capacity of less than 200 megawatts. They aren’t threatened by H557. 

Canadian hydro power is the target, bill co-sponsor Jim Masland (D-Thetford) told Vermont Daily Chronicle today.

“If we’re going to ‘plug in more and burn less’ we’ll need more renewable energy,” Masland wrote. “If we’re honest with ourselves we should recognize that HQ power comes from methane producing dam construction and flooding that destroys the Quebec landscape and displaces the indigenous population that has lived there for millennia. If we think that HQ won’t expand further we’re fooling ourselves.”

Masland is at least partially correct: the construction of a hydro power dam is extremely carbon-intensive. Trees rotting in reservoirs do emit methane.

However, wind turbines and solar panels also are carbon-intensive in their manufacture and installation. Nevertheless, wind, hydro and solar power are all considered “carbon-free” because of their low carbon output during the entire ‘life cycle’ of construction, operation, and decommissioning. 

Canadian hydro power is considered a godsend by many southern New England utilities and states. Demand for power is growing. Fossil fuel and nuclear plants are closing. Every year the renewable energy standard demand grows. Solar and wind power have not fulfilled their promise of producing the lion’s share of the region’s electricity. 

Yet just north of the border, huge amounts of carbon-free, renewable power are for sale. Transmission capacity is a problem. Several more power lines running through Northern New England have been proposed, only to be shot down by alliances of concerned neighbors and supporters of Atlantic ocean off-shore wind projects. 

The sponsors of H557 are Masland, Jim McCullough (D-Williston), Peter Anthony (D-Barre), Mollie Burke (Brattleboro), Michael Mrowicki (D-Putney), Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P-Burlington), and Trevor Squirrell (D-Underhill).

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23 replies »

  1. Is this a joke?

    I suspect Mr. Masland just invested in a solar array cooperative of one sort or another and intends to profit from his proposed legislative poppycock, as will, I suspect further, the people who elected him. Clearly, whenever Mr. Masland, like the rest of us, speaks or attends to his daily bodily functions, he creates more CO2 and Methane on a per BTU generated basis than does Hydro-Quebec – the fourth largest energy producer in the world providing electricity for less than half the cost of solar or wind power.

    Mr. Masland, and all legislators for that matter, should be required to divest themselves of any ownership or affiliation with energy production (public or private) before passing any bills affecting their investments or associations. Masland probably just purchased his own personal solar array and now wants to accelerate the ROI (Return on Investment) from the 10-year break-even point return typical with the process.

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C. S. Lewis

    It’s a shame, is it not, that C. S. Lewis’s characterization of this behavior, as exercised by people like Masland, has become relevant every other week or so these days? God help us.

    • Becsuse Bernie Sanders has brainwashed a majority of the popilation in this state into believing big corporations are evil and climate change will end the world. Monteplier is just full of low intellect people that have run for office and the brainwashed have elected them. Pray we have some conserverative minds elected as we move forward.

  2. Rep. Masland tells us that “….. HQ power…… destroys the Quebec landscape…..”

    Has Masland or any of the other sponsors of H557 ever driven up Route 7 from Rutland to Burlington and observed the incredible spread and damage to Vermont’s landscape done by industrial solar development?

    What does Masland think is happening to the landscape right here in Vermont as a result of expensive and unreliable industrial solar development spreading across the State? Does he even care about Vermont’s landscape? Does he wonder what these solar panels produce at night or when they’re covered with snow? Where does he think the electrical power we need is to come from tomorrow?

    Do to the heavy lobbying done by the renewable energy industry in Vermont solely for its own financial interests, nuclear power and power generated by fossil fuels have been eliminated as eligible sources of energy. If HQ power is also ultimately eliminated as a source of energy in Vermont, what is left to keep the lights on, keep the house warm and power all the electric vehicles that are mandated to come?

    There is a real need for commonsense to return to under the Golden Dome……If you doubt there is a commonsense issue in our legislature, take the time to read the new bills recently proposed.

    • Follow the money. The rain is free and perpetually renewable. The only way they can squeeze any more dollars out of the energy industry is to re-define it all and then tax it.

    • Peter. excellant comment. This Masland apparently doesn’t mind eating up all the beautiful green mts. with solar panels & turbines and destroying wildlife’s natural habitat.

  3. That Vermont House bill, drafted by RE nincompoops, is off-the-charts idiotic.
    This likely was done on the advice of self-serving, subsidy-seeking outfits, such as ENERGY ACTION NETWORK, etc.

    Scott should Veto it right away.

    We need a whole lot MORE hydro from Canada.
    We should build transmission lines to make that happen

    Canadian hydro will operate as long as Quebec exists, and as long as there is PRECIPITATION, which likely would be for many centuries

  4. What ties do these people have to the RE industry? Can we follow the money? Or have they just been brainwashed?

  5. I didn’t believe our Vermont politicians could get dumber. But they have. What plans do they have to replace all of this electricity? I’ll still be waiting fir an answer.

  6. These lefties will have us all wearing propeller beanies attached to rechargeable pocket batteries before long…Their insanity will have me taking up drinking again before long…That’ll learn’em [sic]…-:)….It’s laugh or cry folks.

  7. Our legislators are certifiable! First I read about insurance coverage for transgender fertility treatments and now they want to get rid of hydroelectric power ~ 🤦‍♀️

  8. Masland: “If we’re going to ‘plug in more and burn less’ we’ll need more renewable energy,” Masland wrote. “If we’re honest with ourselves we should recognize that HQ power comes from methane producing dam construction and flooding that destroys the Quebec landscape and displaces the indigenous population that has lived there for millennia. If we think that HQ won’t expand further we’re fooling ourselves.”
    Oh but putting up hundreds & hundreds of turbines and solar panel farms won’t destroy Vt. landscape? Just sayin….

  9. Applying the same logic, the construction and installation of wind turbines and solar panels that generates lots of CO2 and methane should be classified the same as hydro. These people are delusional about the true costs of their unreliable and unnecessary renewables!

  10. Masland clearly is clueless. As written, H.557 states: “The only portion of electricity produced by a system of generating resources that shall be considered renewable is that portion generated by a technology that qualifies as renewable under this subdivision (21).”
    Let me interpret that statement:
    The only electricity that may be sold in Vermont is made the way we, the legislature want it made.
    Nuclear is very forbidden
    Unless we say, hydro is out. Hydro Quebec is definitely out.
    We’ll allow solar and wind, but we reserve the right to tell you from whom you can get it.
    Natural gas? Nope. Oil? double nope. Coal? never. Propane gas for your home generator? No Way.
    How does the exaulted and mighty climate evangelist seek to power Vermont’s energy needs?
    He’ll get back to you on that. This bill contains only what’s Not permitted. No word on what is.

  11. Let’s face it, despite all the accusations coming from them about their political opponents being “anti-science”, demoprog science is mostly based on wishful thinking and utopian philosophy.
    Years ago in Vermont, hydro power from Quebec was considered non-renewable from a policy standpoint, and now they want to go back to that pseudoscience?
    Solar photovoltaic is certainly part of the needed mix but are the proponents of these bills aware of the externalities involved in producing said panels? They pretend to care about remote parts of Quebec but are ignoring the toxic and labor-practice disasters in faraway China that are part of the current solar panel industry. Democrats spent $700 million of taxpayer money on Solyndra manufacturing panels in California but the company is now bankrupt, because the only cost-effective way to produce these things is in commie China with the lack of environmental regulation ans cheap labor.
    So, if beavers flood an area and create more wetland and cause the release of methane, no problem. If humans do the same thing but on a bigger scale, we are evil?

  12. Let’s target all of those hideous solar panels smeared over our landscape that are clogging the electrical grid and raising electrical costs for all Vermonters. Let’s target wind turbines that blight the landscape and kill so many birds, and produce little energy. These were / are just money-making schemes for Vermont enviro-capitalists who manipulated our state laws and rules many years ago to favor “renewables, then went about developing “renewable” businesses so as to cash in. Time to end the cascade of riches that they grifted.

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