Making good neighbors
By MARY POWELL | June 09,2010
Today's energy world needs bold new thinking. While nations struggle to deal with the effects of global climate change and America faces a major tragedy in the Gulf, we must focus our efforts on the steps we can take in Vermont to make a difference. It is time to find new ways to power our country, and we have to do it in ways that local communities embrace. As the CEO for Green Mountain Power, I am excited that we are taking the lead and doing our part through a new wind project in Lowell.
Our recent proposal to build Kingdom Community Wind in Lowell, the most significant generation project in Vermont since the mid-1980s, is an important step toward meeting these energy goals. Utility ownership of renewable resources is clearly one of the most cost-effective options for our customers over the long term and helps keep our power supply "low-carbon and local."
From the start, we wanted to have local community support and benefits. That's why we approached Vermont Electric Cooperative to sell them a portion of the power at our cost. Then we told the people of Lowell that we would only build it if they wanted us there. We were gratified that 75 percent of voters this past March indicated we should move forward with the project. We also negotiated a property tax payment for our $150 million investment that will more than cover the current Lowell municipal budget.
In addition to the local economic benefit of the project, Green Mountain Power has also created a "Good Neighbor Fund." The first of its kind, the Good Neighbor Fund recognizes the importance of sharing economic value with citizens of towns who are in close proximity to large-scale wind. Through this fund, the neighboring towns of Albany, Westfield, Eden, Irasburg and Craftsbury will benefit directly from the project with additional financial support to the town for a 10-year period. I have long felt that Vermonters living in communities near a power project with a large presence should benefit in more ways than simply a new power supply for their region.
Those who have followed our company will remember the bold leadership we demonstrated in developing wind in cold climates when we built our Searsburg plant in 1997, as well as our radical reinvention of the company in 2000 while under extreme financial pressure. So it should not surprise anyone that Green Mountain Power is now creating a new way to build wind in Vermont.
As a good friend once told me, "Building wind in Vermont is not for the faint of heart." Building new generation often requires bold thinking, but also the willingness to engage the local communities. Just like the lessons the industry learned from our experience building the Searsburg wind project, Kingdom Community Wind and the creation of the Good Neighbor Fund will be a lasting example to others seeking to build wind in Vermont and elsewhere.
Mary Powell is president and chief executive officer of Green Mountain Power.