Biomass not a climate answer
An open letter to the officers and directors of the power distribution companies of Vermont and neighboring states:
Thank you. I offer my appreciation and gratitude for not entering a power purchase agreement (PPA) with the North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project (NSSEP). Your choice demonstrates your concern for the forests of Vermont, the health of our fellow Vermonters and especially the emission of vast amounts of greenhouse gas from this power source. Thank you.
According to testimony by NSSEP’s own expert at the Public Service Board hearing in Montpelier on Friday, March 15, this facility will emit 448,700 tons of carbon dioxide every year. This is a huge amount of carbon dioxide, more than emitted by a coal-fired plant of the same electric output.
On the same day at the PSB hearing, Adam Winstanley admitted under questioning that “no agreement has yet been reached” (referring to a PPA). This after the project has been in the works for years and before the PSB for well over a year.
Your choice not to purchase power from the NSSEP is critical because it may represent a substantial element in the case to defeat the project’s bid for a certificate of public good from the PSB.
I don’t pretend to know your reasons for your choice, but I can think of at least two very likely ones.
First, the power is not needed at this time due to declining demand. This comes in large part from Efficiency Vermont. Gov. Peter Shumlin in a campaign debate on VPT last Oct. 4 clearly said: “I don’t think we need to build any new base-load, base-generating plants than we have on line right now.”
Second, probably more significant, is the rapidly changing views on “carbon neutrality” and carbon accounting, creating concerns over tax structure and lost credits, resulting in cost and availability risks.
Climate change issues have gained a high degree of urgency recently. The time scale of forest regeneration is coming under much closer scientific scrutiny. Many researchers and policymakers no longer consider the combustion of wood harvested from our forests as “carbon neutral.” This is evident in the recent changes in the content of the website of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the research articles the and the University of Vermont list on their sites. We no longer see recommendations to harvest the forests for electric power generation. It is becoming clear that burning our forests by cutting, hauling and shoving them still wet into a firebox at a power plant creates a carbon “debt” that takes about 50 years to pay off with regrowth.