Friday, February 24, 2006

Utility welcomes energy and financial instability

A bill that among other things considers expanding net-metering limits has been approved in the Vermont House. Utilities, however, don't like the possibility. According to the story in today's Rutland Herald, Central Vermont Public Service's lobbyist Kerrick Johnson said that expansion of net metering could affect utilities' bond ratings by adding an element of unpredictability.

He also noted that the power company has to continue contracting for enough electricity to supply its net-metering customers in case they need it.

Net metering is currently limited to 1% of a utility's maximum load and is allowed for generators up to 15 KW, or 150 KW for a multiple-metered "farm" system. On CVPS's system, net metering totals 0.07% of its maximum load.

But even that small amount of unpredictable power can be an expensive burden, according to Mr. Johnson.

It is odd, then, to have read on Wednesday that CVPS has arranged to buy the output from the 47.5-MW wind power facility proposed for Glebe Mountain in Londonderry and Windham by investment firm Diamond Castle–owned Catamount Energy and Japanese giant Marubeni Power International. CVPS says it will represent a seventh of their power load.

Yet they complain about the possibility of 1% of their load coming from customers' systems and having to continue providing power in case their generators aren't working.

Have the people of CVPS been blinded by the cut rate the Glebe Mountain developers have offered (made possible by taxpayer-financed subsidies), unable to consider what they're actually buying?

The power for one seventh of their load will be intermittent, variable, and unpredictable. Two thirds of the time, the output from the wind turbines will be below (mostly far below) their average output. If CVPS did not already contract for power to cover that, then they will have to buy on the expensive spot market. If they did have the power already, and the wind were to rise, they would have to dump the surplus, likely selling it at a loss.

If they think a few tiny net-metered customers are a burden, surely a facility the size of that proposed for Glebe Mountain will be a disaster.

Or maybe there's something in this deal that hasn't been made public.

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