Behind GMP’s solar pitch
Green Mountain Power, in its efforts to make Rutland the renewable energy capital of Vermont, is to be commended. Indeed, its public relations campaign has succeeded so well that its virtues are daily extolled in editorials and publicly praised by politicians, and even the police chief.
Is it any wonder that under the capable hands of GMP CEO Mary Powell and her enabling partner, Governor Shumlin, that all the hills of Vermont will soon be humming inexorable turbine tunes and valleys abloom with photovoltaic cells.
But not so fast, please, lest we laud too much. It is not all altruistic.
GMP stands to benefit mightily from the efforts: Each installation of renewable energy devices by GMP is, first, highly subsidized by the taxpayer, and, second, the ratepayer pays in excess of three times the cost of base-load generation.
Governor Shumlin, his commissioner and other minions on the Public Service Board are promoting wind and solar power, now under 2 percent of generation, to be 90 percent by 2020. Now that is an inane proposition — simply a physical improbability.
But, anyhow improbable, it is politically attractive, so let’s cap all those hills with wind towers and fill all the valley slopes with solar panels.
But, again, not so fast. “Europe’s Renewables Romance Fades” (David Garman and Samuel Thernstrom: “Denmark gets 30 percent of its electricity from wind and hopes to produce 50 percent by 2020. Germany produces roughly 12 percent of its electricity from wind and solar today, and it wants to reach 35 percent by 2020.
“Clean energy powered by renewable resources is understandably attractive. But the honeymoon with renewables is ending as the practical challenges become clear: The first challenge is cost. Germany has invested more than $350 billion in renewable energy deployment and its households pay the highest power costs in Europe, except for the Danish. On average Germans and Danes pay roughly 300 percent more for residential electricity than Americans do.”
And then, besides high costs, we have reliability: dependence on renewable energy equals potential blackouts.