Program: Energy for jobs
Idea: We can make Vermont attractive to manufacturing with a combination of our great workforce and energy which is cheap (and clean) by East Coast standards. Manufacturing provides jobs for all skill levels and is an engine for economic growth in general. Low cost energy also makes Vermont more affordable.
The Five-Step Subsidy-Free Program: (unique Vermont advantages in italics)
- Canadian hydro power. Work with Canadian producers to have electricity routed through Vermont as it goes south. Pre-permit to take advantage of New Hampshire delays on approval. Part of the deal is flexible access to part of the load at attractive rates. We're a border state.
- Natural gas. Pre-permit both the expansion of Vermont Gas south from Burlington and a corridor for Marcellus Shale gas supply from Whitehall to Rutland and eventually beyond. Create standard permits for gas cogeneration giving both heat and low-cost electricity. Look for private investors (EB5?) to build a good-sized natural gas to electricity plant in Rutland area. Switch the state fleet and buildings, schools and school buses along the pipeline route to natural gas (helps incent pipeline and fuelling station builders without subsidy AND saves operating expense and reduces CO2). Buildings can do cogen as well. See if Interstate corridors can be used for NG pipelines to the rest of the state. It looks like NG will be a low cost direct energy and electricity source for a long time to come. It's domestic. It's much cleaner than oil. We're near the Marcellus Shale formation.
- Off-peak electricity. Use the Smart Grid to offer great deals on way off-peak electricity to businesses and residences. Clever manufacturers may save their energy intensive processes for night and displace other fuels; citizens can save money – perhaps even by plugging in cars off-peak as prices for plugins fall (subsidies are cheating!). Increasing off-peak demand and flattening the load curve lets Vermont power companies increase their electricity purchases at low base load rather than peak rates and further brings down the cost of electricity. Vermont is on track be the first state in the nation with full Smart Grid coverage.
- Nuclear power. Allow the Public Service Board to move ahead on Yankee's relicensing while planning to replace it in ten years with a much more modern and efficient plant, which incorporates all the lessons learned in nuclear power. We have a paid-for nuclear site with needed infrastructure and extremely low current cost of electricity and a distribution grid radiating out from it.
- Energy efficiency projects. Direct all state "energy efficiency" dollars from whatever source to projects with actual dollar and cents benefits to taxpayers and with paybacks less than 10 years. Hire private businesses to do the work using competitive bidding – but don't subsidize them. This means making state building, vehicles, and state-supported resources like schools and affordable housing energy efficient (see yesterday's post on Barre project). Insulation, solar hot water and geothermal would definitely be in; solar photovoltaic would be out unless and until cost effective. We have biomass, wells and ponds for geothermal heat pumps, and unshaded rooftops for panels for solar hot water.
Our location, work force, existing nuclear plant, Smart Grid head start, and rural environment can be unique advantages. It's up to us, all of us, whether we take advantage of them or not. Good thing for our legislature to concentrate on this year.