by Monique Thurston
Are the chickens finally coming home to roost for Vermont energy policy drivers – especially the politicans facing re-election in less than two weeks?
For more than a decade, renewable policies have been promulgated by a revolving door of lobbyists becoming renewable entrepreneurs, lobbyists becoming politicians, and some politicians voting for policies satisfying their ideological inclinations without apparent regard to the effects of these policies on Vermont’s citizens.
Over the past 10 years in Vermont, regulating energy has become regulating Vermonters’ lives.
In 2010 the former VPIRG Clean Energy Advocate (a/k/a renewable energy policy lobbyist) James Moore co-founded SunCommon after his organization pushed through legislation offering guaranteed, high-cost subsidies for solar power. On the strength of this VPIRG-generated government support, SunCommon quickly developed a large market, with James Moore in a few short years becoming a rich man, nearly all funded with captive public ratepayer dollars.
In 2011 the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan set a goal of 90% Renewable Energy by 2050 with the purpose of “leading by example” and to “increase community involvement by engaging Vermonters in energy choices” – with zero explanation to Vermonters of the financial and environmental benefits/costs those goals would have. (China has produced nearly all the solar panels installed in Vermont to date, with coal supplying the energy to manufacture the solar panels). The rate paid to solar panel farms developers was 10 times the wholesale cost or electricity at the time, guaranteed for 20 years.
In June 2015, I attended the “Vermont’s Renewable Energy Goals’ lecture given by David Blittersdorf to the Addison County Democratic Committee. His slide presentation showed that Vermont would need 6000 MW of solar capacity and 3000 MW of wind capacity. I asked him how many miles of ridges would be needed to meet his wind power ambitions and if such capacity would in fact occupy the entire Green Mountains. His response was stunning. 3000 MW of wind would occupy 200 miles of Vermont’s mountain ridges.
Blittersdorf failed to provide any specific correlation to emission savings nor assessment of plans to counteract unreliability when the wind stopped blowing.
In 2015 I attended the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan workshop in Middlebury organized by Asa Hopkins, Department of Public Service Energy Policy Director under the Shumlin administration.
Hopkins first gave a slide presentation showing that Vermont would need to reach 90% renewable electricity generation by 2050. Without explaining the source of the new electricity, the enormous taxpayer and ratepayer costs, the ever-growing bureaucracies, and ever more intrusive controls over the choices of ordinary Vermonters to achieve the 90% goal, Hopkins proposed to the audience to write suggestions on how to achieve such goals on several easels placed around the auditorium. Each easel contained a statement that supported the ideas contained in the slide show. Green stickers were available for audience members to place on the easels to show their agreement.
I approached Hopkins and asked him the following three questions:
1) “What is the tonnage of CO2 emissions in Vermont annually?” He did not know “off the top of his head”;
2) “What is the tonnage of CO2 emissions in the world annually?” He did not know that either “off the top of his head”;
3) “What would be the percentage of reduction of the annual world emissions, if his plan would be implemented.”
He moved away from me. I was truly shocked. Indeed, how can you recommend to an already low CO2-emissions, sparsely populated, mostly rural poor state such drastic recommendations without knowing the practical benefits for Vermonters or for the planet?
Two months after I questioned Asa Hopkins, he told Vermont Watchdog that global warming targets aren’t in the plan “because Vermont efforts won’t affect climate change.” And at a public forum to discuss the CEP, his boss, then DPS Commissioner Chris Recchia said when asked about what kind of impact Vermont’s renewable energy policy would have on global temperatures, “I disagree with the characterization that the reason we’re doing this is to try to improve global warming.”
Energy policies based on a supposed science with no empirical correlation are wrong policies. Didn’t Vermonters deserve to know what these plans would translate into and what sacrifices they would be required to make?
Was “doing your part to solve climate change” a valid reason or simply an infantilization of a public that wanted to trust its government? Who were the players behind this?
Certainly Senator Chris Bray was not comforting my skepticism when asked why he thought Vermont renewable energy policies would affect global warming when I spoke to him at a Breakfast Club in Vergennes in 2016.
After all those interactions I had now discovered the deceit thrown over Vermonters eyes, but that was only the beginning. The folly should have stopped there but did not. It took a much more sinister shape as the years passed.
To be continued tomorrow in Vermont Daily Chronicle….
Categories: News Analysis