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Small Coalition Takes to Task Flawed Report from the Vermont Public Interest “Research” Group

Even though VPIRG is considered a research group, based on the coalition’s critique of their report, looks like much research wasn’t done at all on how to supposedly power VT without VY. Meredith Angwin from Yes Vermont Yankee sums it up:

I belong to a group, Coalition for Energy Solutions. We are all local energy professionals: one physicist, one chemist (me), and four engineers. Some of us have active careers and companies, some are semi-retired. At any rate, we felt that this VPIRG report [pdf] overstated the ease of replacing Vermont Yankee with renewables, and understated the costs. (Actually, they didn't state the costs.) We began doing research for a report on the costs and engineering feasibility of their recommendations.

It has been a long road, in which we evaluated the capacity factors of wind farms in Maine, called foresters to assess the sustainable yield of our northern forests, and tried to assess the costs and reliability of cow power. And of course, we argued with each other, and improved our estimates, and argued and improved some more. All six of us seem to be from Missouri...Show Me! We finally finished the report: well-documented, a little geeky, low on graphics, but we backed up every straight-forward number, and argued out every estimated factor. Let's put it this way: I think it's the best report out there on renewables for Vermont, and I'm not just saying that because I am one of the authors.

Here are a few nuggets from the coalition's report (pdf):

We believe that the [VPIRG] Report has not provided all the impacts, numbers, and assumptions on which its conclusions are based. There is no way to understand how its results were obtained. Therefore, there is no way to judge whether the results are realistic. – p. 8

The Report does wind power no service by overestimating available wind energy that is feasible to use. – p. 15

It is good and prudent planning to ask what will happen if the Report’s projections do not come true. What if building wind turbines on the ridges is stalled by intervenors? What if Vermont runs out of money and stops subsidizing home solar and home wind turbines? What if nearly doubling the output of Vermont’s forests is analyzed and found to be a poor forest-management choice for sustainability? - p. 24

Throughout the Report there are many examples of hoping for good things. It speaks of “aggressive goals” “smart energy storage technology” – whatever that is, “optimal charging pattern” and “emerging technologies.” All of us want the best for Vermont, our country and the world. It is reasonable to expect that technologies will improve and prices will fall, because that is our experience. However when it comes to planning for the future, it is not prudent to plan on technology improvements and price decreases on a schedule. Plans should include contingencies for “what if it doesn’t come true.” It is better to be cautious and have a backup plan and be pleasantly surprised than to have a rude awakening. For Vermont’s electric power future the “rude awakening” would come in the form of very high prices due to purchasing large amounts of energy from the New England grid. – p. 26

Well done on the research, this critique should hopefully get Vermonters thinking more realistically about their energy choices.

Comments

There is a summary critique of the VPIRG recommendation at the end of my talk to the Hanover NH Rotary about Vermont Yankee.
http://home.comcast.net/~robert.hargraves/public_html/VermontYankeeRotary.pdf
or with audio at
http://www.slideshare.net/robert.hargraves/vermont-yankee-to-hanover-rotary

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