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Douglas: Power Merger

07/25/11 7:55AM By Jim Douglas
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(HOST) To former Vermont governor and commentator Jim Douglas, the proposed merger between Green Mountain Power and CVPS is another indicator that the partnership between Vermont and Quebec is growing stronger.

(DOUGLAS) Vermont’s two largest retail utilities have proposed a merger. Some may fear a greater concentration of power (pun intended), but I think the benefits outweigh any disadvantages.

Vermonters have long pursued the goals of energy independence and reduced emissions. I'm proud that our electricity sources are the cleanest in the nation – we emit less in greenhouse gases per kilowatt hour than any other state – and our retail electric rates are the lowest in New England. This is due in large part to favorable contracts with Hydro-Quebec, which last year were extended for 26 years. This positions us well to use less oil by substituting clean electrically-delivered energy.

A priority of my governorship was to strengthen our centuries-long partnership with Quebec, our largest trading partner and a significant source of clean, stable and renewable energy.

In recent years Vermont and Quebec worked together in many ways. We committed to improving water quality and reducing emissions into the atmosphere; we instituted enhanced driver’s licenses for easier transit across the border; we conducted joint emergency preparedness drills; we worked on improving transportation; and we celebrated our shared heritage during the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial.

As we look to our energy future, the focus must remain on what is best for families and employers who struggle every day to make ends meet. Vermonters should measure the merger on what it will mean to us. We can achieve lower rates by ensuring the availability of power and streamlining its delivery to consumers.

A key cost of doing business – especially in manufacturing and other energy-intensive sectors – is electricity. If we’re going to create more good-paying jobs for the next generation, we need to control costs.

All our utilities, including the two largest, CVPS and Green Mountain Power, have a great record of service. It’s due to the dedication of the countless hard-working Vermonters who make these companies run. But to realize savings in our small state, whether in education, healthcare or electric rates, we must seek economies of scale. It’s a meaningful way to reduce costs among regulated monopolies like utilities.

Each company brings years of experience to serving Vermonters. The elimination of duplicative overhead will make the new entity more efficient. That’ll be good for customers, whether residential, commercial or industrial. Although our rates are low in the region, it’s tough to compete with other parts of the nation. The proposed merger will harness the unique strengths of each company to the benefit of the state.

While Vermont should continue to explore alternative sources, we need to maintain a cost-effective supply of baseload electricity. That means affordable, renewable energy from a stable and trustworthy source. Our Quebec neighbors are not an unstable regime far from home; they’re a valued ally whose success is tied to our own.

I’m proud of our stronger relationship with Quebec. Our energy challenges will remain as the demand for electricity grows; in an increasingly uncertain world, it’s comforting to know that Vermont can look to Quebec as a valued partner and friend.

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