During a recent debate Gov. Phil Scott said Vermont doesn’t need any more local, renewable energy because we already get all we need out of Canada, from Hydro-Quebec.
He also doesn’t like looking at renewables.
“I don’t apologize for not wanting to see wind generation on those ridgelines, because we have alternatives, and this is from Hydro-Québec,” he said.
It’s an out-of-sight out-of-mind view that weakens our clean energy goals.
As we cut our reliance on dirty fossil fuels like oil and gas and expect greatly increased demand for electricity, we’ve got to think about where all that electricity will come from.
Now, you may or may not like seeing wind turbines, but one thing is certain. Their impact pales in comparison to the devastating impacts of Hydro-Quebec: changing the course of rivers, flooding an area the size of New York state, displacing thousands of indigenous people, increasing mercury levels in fish, emitting greenhouse gases, changing forever the land, the ecosystem and the culture.
It’s not my definition of an environmentally friendly, renewable energy source, and contradicts the spirit of our recently enacted environmental justice law (Act 154). But it’s devastation and injustice most never see.
I wonder how Vermonters would react if HQ was being considered today, and we were asked to choose between sending our dollars to Hydro-Quebec with all its impacts or investing in environmentally friendly, local, renewable energy.
Consider the irony of switching to an electric car knowing when I plug it in, I am charging it with electricity from Hydro-Quebec, fracked gas, coal, nuclear or some other non-renewable power source.
We know the benefits of renewables, especially local renewables. Good paying, local jobs, lower, more stable power costs for homes and businesses, more tax revenue, independence from massive, foreign owned utilities and protection of our environment.
Vermont’s current Renewable Energy Standard calls for Vermont utilities to get 75 percent of their energy from renewables by 2032 with a goal of generating a mere 10 percent of it in state. Will this mean simply buying more HQ power?
Certainly, we can and must do better.
The newly passed federal Inflation Reduction Act can help. It includes support for much needed energy storage, electric vehicles, home based solar and more. State tax policy can also be structured to do more.
We are failing to meet our clean energy goals, continuing to send too many of our energy dollars out of state and relying on dirty power to charge our electric vehicles and more.
Re-evaluating our energy strategies should be a top priority this coming legislative session.
It’s time for the Legislature and the Governor to commit to making Vermont a 100 percent real renewable energy state, while doubling the amount of energy produced right here in Vermont by 2032.
A serious investment in renewables is more than an energy plan, it is an economic development policy that among other things will help make Vermont more affordable and resilient. Consider Babcock Ranch, a solar community 12 miles from Fort Myers, Florida. CNN reports that while Fort Myers and the surrounding communities lost electricity due to hurricane Ian, Babcock never lost power.
Yes, clean, local energy may mean seeing a wind turbine (by the way none are currently planned or proposed in Vermont), seeing a community solar installation or solar panels on your roof or on state buildings.
But, compared to the alternative it’s a small price to pay. The Governor should be able to see that.