BED Steps Closer To Hydro-Quebec Deal

06/30/10 7:34AM By John Dillon

(Host) The publicly-owned utility in Vermont's largest city is one step closer to buying electricity from Hydro-Quebec.

The commission that oversees the Burlington Electric Department voted late Tuesday night to continue negotiations to buy 9 megawatts of Canadian power.

If the deal goes through, it would reverse a decision Burlington made 20 years to reject a contract with Hydro-Quebec. Voters opposed the deal in 1990 because of environmental concerns and worries that the large hydroelectric projects would displace native people.

But more recently, the environmental focus has been on climate change. And Hydro-Quebec has positioned itself as a low-carbon, renewable energy resource. The Vermont Legislature also recently passed a bill declaring large-scale hydro power as "renewable energy."

Robert Herendeen is a Burlington Electric Commissioner. He told the board about his misgivings over Hydro-Quebec's plans to dam rivers in the far north.

(Herendeen) "We're saying here's a renewable source, which is desirable from the carbon standpoint, and so on. But in the end, we're going to knock off a piece of nature. And when there are no more pieces of nature left, in my mind that's not good."

(Host But Herendeen ultimately voted with the majority to allow the utility to continue negotiations. The only vote in opposition came from Commission Chairman Daniel Shearer. He said he favors local generation and more aggressive energy efficiency programs.

(Shearer) "If you look at our history we didn't end up taking the Hydro-Quebec option many years ago and because of that we've had to be innovative and think creatively about how we're going to meet our own standards for reaching 100 percent renewability. So continuing to have that challenge upon us - that challenge there to meet - I think is a good thing,"

(Host) Officials with the Burlington Electric Department said city had received just 31 comments on the Hydro-Quebec proposal. Eleven were against, while 20 were in favor of buying power from the provincial utility.

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