Vt. Utility Signs Deal With N.H. Nuclear Plant
05/24/11 10:30AM By Ross Sneyd  Download MP3
(Host) Green Mountain Power has reached a deal to buy about a fifth of its electricity from the owner of the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.
As VPR's Ross Sneyd reports, the new contract will replace one that's about to expire with Vermont Yankee.
(Sneyd) The blades of a large wind turbine cut through the air in the background as Green Mountain Power announced its new power deal.
(Sneyd) Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell says the contract with Next Era Energy will benefit the utility's industrial customers.
(Powell) "A big part of what we're doing is about our customer focus and Dynapower is one of our most important customers."
(Sneyd) Dynapower makes power supply equipment at its factory in South Burlington. It also uses wind turbines and solar panels for its electricity demand.
That symbolism was welcome for GMP, which emphasizes its own renewable energy portfolio.
Nuclear power doesn't qualify as renewable. But it is created without producing a lot of carbon. And that's another one of Green Mountain Power's central goals.
Powell rejected criticism that nuclear power was an unwise part of its mix.
(Powell) "Our message and our vision, we launched three years ago, is about carbon, cost and reliability. And we've always freely shared the role that we see nuclear power playing in terms of moving toward a clean, green, cost-effective future."
(Sneyd) The contract calls for Green Mountain Power to buy 60 megawatts of electricity from the Seabrook plant beginning next year.
That's when the current contract from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant expires. The Seabrook contract is for less than Yankee supplies. GMP says that provides an opportunity to further diversify its supply.
Vermont utilities tried to negotiate a new deal with Yankee owner Entergy. They weren't able to reach agreement.
East Montpelier Representative Tony Klein is a Democrat who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee. He says he doesn't think nuclear power has a place in any Vermont utility's portfolio because there's no long-term plan for storing spent fuel.
(Klein) "It comes as a disappointment. And to marginalize the waste creation and use as the positive, as the counter-balance, the carbon footprint, that's hypocrisy."
(Sneyd) Green Mountain CEO Mary Powell rejects that kind of argument.
She says her utility has a power mix that's the envy of New England because it committed itself to small-scale solar, wind and hydro-power.
(Powell) "I've got news for you guys. It looks like we're going to be 20 percent renewables by 2013."
(Sneyd) Seabrook power, she says, will be important as a source of reliable power for the next 23 years while utilities develop even more renewable sources.
For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.
(Host) We should note that Mary Powell is a member of the VPR board.