A Vision Beyond Vermont Yankee
In 2012, Entergy's Vermont Yankee reactor will no longer be part of our energy future. It is inefficient, costly, dangerous and oppressive. It continues to act as an economic disincentive, stifling creative efficiency initiatives and renewable technologies. However, with broad citizen participation and enthusiastic leadership, Vermont Yankee will soon close, ending a turbulent legacy and ushering in new opportunities for Vermont. Our energy future resides in our creativity and vision.
What Will Our Energy Future Look Like?
The beauty of envisioning how we meet our energy needs is that we have the ability to create and shape that vision. In 2000, Efficiency Vermont was created with the intent to decrease energy consumption and save Vermonters money. Through 2006, they have helped us save over $31 million in energy costs and cut over 307 million kilowatt hours (Kwh) in annual electric energy. Further support for Efficiency Vermont and other efficiency programs will decrease our need to produce electricity and minimize the cost to households and businesses. Efficiency will bridge the past with our future energy needs.
Energy conservation, the energy not used, will be the cornerstone of our energy future. The most effective and affordable way to address our energy needs is to not use it whenever possible! Dollar for dollar, investing in energy conservation saves more money and reduces pollution more than any other alternative.
Over the past few years, communities across Vermont have been embracing conservation initiatives that reduce our need to consume energy. Future efforts to further educate and promote energy conservation will inevitably lead to a dramatic decrease in electricity consumed in households and businesses around Vermont. Additionally, by making personal and collective choices to reduce our energy consumption, we can also dramatically reduce the amount we spend on electricity.
Vermont can be a leader in renewable innovation and development. Green energy legislation, signed into law, in 2008 stipulates that we will meet 25% of our energy needs by 2012 using renewable technologies and 45% by 2018. Investing in renewable technologies such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass will create high paying jobs, provide a reliable tax base, protect the environment, and develop a sustainable energy system.
Many of the technologies are already in use and providing us with reliable energy. For example, the Searsburg wind farm has been in operation since 1997 and has a capacity of 6 MW. The Vermont Environmental Research Associates (VERA) identified a potential of 6,000 MW of wind resources. None of this is on public land and is nearly three times Vermont's current annual demand. According to VPIRG's Decade of Change, we can provide 20% of our electricity needs by 2015 through wind turbine installations utilizing a small portion of our ridgelines.
Biomass, which is organic matter that can be burned to generate electricity, will continue to increase as a substantial renewable technology. Current biomass stations such as the McNeil plant in Burlington has a production capacity of 53 MW. New biomass technologies can produce electricity in addition to harnessing and distributing heat, such as that planned by the Brattleboro District Energy project.
Additionally, hydro and solar photovoltaics will be vital components to our energy economy. Small-scale hydro projects can take advantage of our diverse water resources without harming the local environment. Solar panel systems are becoming dramatically more powerful and can easily be installed on our homes, businesses and municipal buildings, thus taking advantage of our most abundant renewable resource, the sun. Producing our own electricity using renewable technologies will increase the amount of dollars and resources staying in Vermont. The thousands of high paying jobs created will provide local and state government with needed tax dollars. Furthermore, using renewable, clean resources such as wind, solar and biomass will dramatically decrease our need for costly, finite resources such as fossil fuels and nuclear materials. Renewable technologies will flourish in Vermont and provide us with the electricity we need beyond 2012.
How Do We Achieve This Vision?
A report released in 2007 entitled Strengthening Vermont's Energy Economy conducted by the Vermont Council on Rural Development details the clear choices we need to make in order to realize our energy future. Above all, it stresses the full support and action by the Vermont state legislature and the governor for pragmatic policy that encourages conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.
Specifically, our representatives must continue to focus on efforts to fully support efficiency and renewable energy legislation. Additionally, the legislature must vote NO to the extended operation of Entergy Vermont Yankee beyond 2012. Operation past its licensed expiration date is an economic disincentive to invest in safer, cleaner, more efficient and affordable solutions. Vermont Yankee is bad for our economy, bad for the environment and bad for the citizens of Vermont.
Because of Act 160, we have the power to close Vermont Yankee by its licensed expiration date of March 2012. Our elected officials must be advocates and leaders for laws that will make our energy future a reality.
While it is vital that comprehensive laws are passed supporting conservation, efficiency and renewables to take us beyond Vermont Yankee, we also have an opportunity as individual citizens to create our own energy future. We need to continue educating ourselves about effective ways to save and use electricity. Taking steps such as decreasing our electricity usage, efficiently using electrical appliances and sharing with others the solutions that work best. Additionally, we must tell our electric companies to stop buying power from dangerous, expensive sources such as Vermont Yankee. Finally, we must encourage our elected representatives that a renewable, efficient energy future is best for Vermont. By participating in the political process, we can shape the direction we take as a state and create a clean and affordable energy future.