March 4, 2010
The Yankee Hole
The Vermont Senate has overwhelmingly voted to shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant when their license expires in 2012.
Yankee provides 28 percent of our peak load of electricity. It really does not matter what steps were taken in coming to the decision to close the plant, it only matters how we cope with the loss of power and tax revenues it once provided. Regional demand for electric power is high. Otherwise, recent steps to increase Yankee power output by 120 percent wouldn’t have been taken. Vermonters will be paying 19 percent to 39 percent more for electrical power, according to an independent study done by Dr. Howard J. Axelrod and commissioned by the Vermont Energy Partnership. That is the good news.
Vermont is going to be losing many millions annually in taxes once paid by Yankee and hundreds of millions of revenue-sharing dollars from the sale of Yankee power. The 600 high-paying jobs in Vernon will vanish, as may all employers who need competitively priced electricity to produce things in Vermont. (R’uh-r’oh, ya mean the 6,000 jobs at IBM or those dairy farmers?)
Regionally, with power demand increasing and production dropping, we will see further price destabilizations. We now rely solely on Hydro-Québec to fill the Yankee void. Hydro (the new owner of Green Mountain Power) has failed to meet aggressive power conservation projections over the last five years. It looks like they aren’t the only ones that are betting the ranch on conservation as a business plan. Securing a long-term contract with the only potential supplier capable of replacing Yankee’s power would be a real good idea. Vermont will require considerably more power to fill our current usage because it will have to be generated far, far away. Not terribly green, but a fact of life nevertheless.
Shelley Palmer Williston