by Willem Post
Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, states a goal of “90% RE of All Energy by 2050”, not just electrical energy, which is about 35% of all energy, from mostly home-grown renewables, to make Vermont “energy independent and fight global warming and climate change”. No nation in the world, except Denmark has such an extreme goal. However, Denmark is a special case, because of its proximity to Norway’s hydro plants to balance its wind energy.
“The Department of Public Service, DPS, in conjunction with other State agencies designated by the Governor, shall prepare a State Comprehensive Energy Plan covering at least a 20-year period”, per Vermont statute $202b.
DPS arbitrarily selected the goal of “90% RE of All Energy by 2050”. There is no LEGAL requirement for those out-of-a-hat numbers. Thus far, after waiting for years, Vermonters have not received any rational explanation of why that goal was selected. See URL.
The DPS Rationale for “90% RE of All Energy by 2050”: Recchia, head of DPS, stated during a public information hearing: “It does not matter what Vermont does, because it would not make any difference regarding climate change and global warming”. He is right. That fantasy goal should be reduced to a more affordable “30% RE of All Energy by 2050”, with the rest by means of increased energy efficiency, and increased purchases of hydro energy from Hydro-Quebec.
– Increased energy efficiency, discussed below, would be much better for Vermont, as it would reduce CO2, PLUS would decrease the energy bills for already-struggling households and businesses. It is the lowest-cost way to reduce CO2.
– Increased purchases of steady, low-cost (about 6 – 7 c/kWh), low-CO2 emitting (least of all renewables), hydro energy from Hydro Quebec, as discussed below. That would be much better for Vermont, instead of additional, subsidized wind turbine systems on pristine ridge lines and PV solar systems in fertile meadows, which produce energy, that is variable, intermittent, grid-disturbing, health-damaging, property value-lowering, environment-damaging, social discord-creating, and expensive at 3 – 5 times NE wholesale prices of 5 c/kWh.
NOTE: In 2015, world CO2-eq emissions were about 38,760 million metric ton + Agriculture, Forestry and Other land use 12,240 million Mt = 51,000 million Mt. Vermont CO2-eq emissions were 8.37 million Mt, which was offset by forest sequestration of 8.23 million Mt. If Vermont were to disappear, it would make no difference at all.
NOTE: Conversion factor for carbon sequestered by 1 acre of average U.S. Forest = – 0.29 Mt C/acre/year x (44 CO2/12 C) = -1.06 Mt CO2. Maine claims 0.3 x 44/12 = 1.1 Mt/acre/y. Vermont claims 8.23 million Mt/y/4,511,000 forest acres = 1.82 Mt/acre/y; it is unclear why Vermont uses such a high value.
NOTE: China and India annually burn about 60% of the 8 BILLION Mt of world coal consumption. The coal is burned in inefficient plants, without proper air pollution control systems. That is a real problem.
The 2016 CEP Report: The report, about 500-plus pages of mostly statements of good intentions, has many pretty pictures. It may look impressive to lay people, but to energy systems professionals, it is not of much use. The CEP report refers to an Energy Action Network study. Some of the EAN study graphics are reproduced, without explanations, in the 2016 CEP report. See CEP URL, page 6. There is a lack of any serious spreadsheet analysis at 5-year intervals, i.e., 2010, 2015, 2020, etc., indicating:
– Capacity, MW, and production, MWh, for homegrown RE systems to be implemented.
– Energy to be purchased from the grid; in-state and out-of-state entities; and Hydro-Quebec.
– Number of buildings to be made at more efficient with heat pumps, and insulation and sealing.
– Electric vehicles to be on the road with private and public charging stations.
– Capital costs to achieve the above.
Energy Action Network: It appears EAN acts as a “subcontractor/consultant” to DPS to perform much of the analysis for the CEP reports. EAN, a pro-RE organization, provided major inputs to the 2011 CEP and 2016 CEP reports. i.e., its fingerprints are on it. See URL for timeline in 2015 EAN Annual Report.
Several leading employees of DPS are members of EAN. That looks like a conflict of interest. It means DPS, in its dealings with the Vermont public, has been posing as a front for the benefit of EAN members.
– Copans, DPS employee, EAN member, co-ordinates CEP regional and local plans.
– Hopkins, DPS Employee, EAN member, energy analyst
– Perchlik, DPS employee, EAN member, leads Clean Energy Development Fund
2013 EAN Study: The study has spreadsheets summarizing the primary energy from various sources for 2010 (base case), 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050. The study does not include any attempt at determining capital costs at 5-year intervals. The study envisions major increases in 1) build-outs of wind and solar systems; 2) energy efficiency of buildings; 3) deployment of electric vehicles and chargers; 4) electrical and thermal energy from biomass. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51b0ce25e4b0e8d244de368b/t/56ce24992fe1314d2971c4e5/1456350361813/EAN+2050+Energy+Analysis+Final+Report+Dec+2013.pdf
2015 EAN Annual Report: The report has some interesting tables with capacities and energy quantities of so much of this and so much of that. Spreadsheets at 5-year intervals would have been far more useful. The report identifies $33.3 BILLION of RE investments to implement the CEP arbitrary goal of “90% RE of All Energy by 2050”, during the 2016 – 2050 period, about $0.98 billion per year.
Coercive Enforcement of CEP Goal: The CEP serves as a useful club, for use by DPS, legislators and RE special interests, to “hold the feet to the fire” of skeptical Vermonters. As shown in the 2015 Annual Report, there will be “Community Energy Dashboards” to indicate the status of planning, achievements, and short falls.
DPS uses the CEP goal to force local political entities to either come up with energy plans, or forfeit getting “substantial deference” during PSB hearings regarding siting, and forfeit subsidies for the RE projects of developers; insider folks will be pushing for those subsidies.
Those plans must include ALL approved RE technologies, unless a special dispensation is granted by DPS, which approves the plans. Such centrally imposed government coercion should have no place in Vermont, which has a 200-year culture of LOCAL control. Here is an example of a regional plan, 161 pages.
Subsidies and the CEP: Vermont is not a business-friendly state. It ranks 43rd out of 50. See URL. Instead of increasing its ranking, Vermont social-democrat politicians have adopted an unwritten “policy”: Maximize the schlepping of federal funds into Vermont to start/subsidize government programs, and start/subsidize government/business partnerships, which create a spectrum of subsidy-dependent constituencies, that produce reliable votes year after year. The programs and partnerships usually pay very little in state and local taxes. Shortfalls are exacted from the near-zero, real growth private sector, by means of annual increases of taxes, fees and surcharges. Unless these trends are reversed, Vermont will keep its disgraceful 43rd ranking.
A ”policy” example is the DPS arbitrary goal of “90% RE of All Energy by 2050” to maximize federal subsidies into the state to create subsidized RE programs and projects. Other “policy” examples are the fraudulent EB-5 program; the money-losing Montpelier District Heating Plant; the $200-million, still-not-working, healthcare website; single-payer, etc. The social-democrat “policy” has failed to create a vibrant, growing private sector since 2000.
However, in-state and out-of-state multi-millionaires, often hiding their identities behind innocent-sounding LLCs, investing in the larger RE projects, are making out like bandits. They enjoy multiple, risk-free, high-return, 20- to 25-year, RE tax shelters, while laughing all the way to the bank, because all is paid for, via ever-higher taxes, fees and surcharges, by already-struggling Vermont households and businesses, trying to make ends meet with stagnant and declining real incomes, in the near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy.
In accordance with the “policy”, most legislators habitually vote the party line for subsidized RE and other programs. Most of them likely do not understand all the implications. Even some engineers have trouble deciphering the arcane DPS and PSB rules and regulations.
Most legislators likely are aware of the dismal economic and socially divisive outcomes of the RE scenarios of the past 6 years, especially after repeatedly hearing about the hardships of Vermonters, who’s only “feel-good reward” is suffering the adversities of wind and solar projects on destroyed pristine ridgelines and in fertile meadows, PLUS paying for it all.
The arbitrary CEP goal aims to “transform” the Vermont economy. It would require investments of at least $33.3 billion during the 2017 – 2050 period, about $980 million PER YEAR for 33 years, per EAN 2015 Annual Report. The CEP could not be implemented without a very high carbon tax of at least $500 million PER YEAR for 33 years.
Proposed Carbon Tax Bill: A large group of Vermont legislators, pressured by RE and other special interests, co-sponsored a bill to enact a law to impose a unilateral, regressive carbon tax on already-struggling households and businesses. Fortunately, the proposed bill died in committee; Scott is against any unilateral carbon tax and against any additional wind turbines on ridgelines. However, RE and other special interests continue to drum up support for THEIR carbon tax that would line THEIR pockets at the expense of all others.
To make the proposed bill APPEAR attractive, the bill had the usual lip-service statement about Vermont’s government returning the carbon tax revenues in a “revenue-neutral” manner, i.e., in the form of tax credits, subsidies, rebates, grants, etc. The tax credits, etc., were purposely left vague and were circumscribed in ways so people and companies would have no way of knowing who would qualify for what credit, and what they would get back.
Carbon Tax Another Headwind for the Vermont Economy: The state is almost always short of money. It promises to give back money? Why take it in the first place? Vermont’s government likely would disburse the carbon tax revenues to favored subsidy-dependent constituencies, per the “policy”. About 10% of the $500 million would be government overhead for doing the “disbursing”.
If the carbon tax bill were enacted, special interests, seeing this large source of funds, would pile on it, and grab as much of it as possible, as happened with the ARRA funds some years ago.
The Vermont approach would be complicated and lead to more bureaucracy and rules and regulations. It would definitely not be hands-off. See the hand’s-off British Columbia approach below.
For Vermont to impose a unilateral carbon tax would make its economy less competitive versus other states, i.e., more brain drain, and fewer good-paying, steady, full-time jobs, with good benefits in the private sector. The carbon tax would be another headwind for the near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy.
The carbon tax would further aggrandize Vermont’s government, which already is too large, too inefficient, spends too much money, is bloated with programs, and is running annual deficits, that are offset with annual increases of taxes, fees and surcharges, as if money grows on trees.
The carbon tax would transfer up to $500 million per year, less sales tax reductions, into incompetent, inefficient government hands; EB-5, Health care website, Montpelier Heating Plant, etc. come to mind.
NOTE: State government sector employment has grown 13.56/2.85 = 4.76 times faster than the private sector since 2000, which is forced to pay for the state government sector with ever-increasing, taxes, fees, and surcharges, as well as being imposed upon with various mandates. No wonder the private sector has been so anemic and unable to create good-paying, steady, full-time jobs with good benefits.
* Includes federal, state, local, education, etc.
British Columbia, Canada: Proponents of the carbon tax point to it being a success in British Columbia, Canada. BC’s levy started at $9 per metric ton in 2008, and gradually increased to $27 per metric ton in 2012, or about 23 c/gallon; MUCH LESS THAN VERMONT.
Because, by law, the tax must be revenue-neutral, BC has returned 100% of the carbon tax in the form of REDUCTIONS of personal and corporate income tax RATES; a much more efficient way than Vermont’s cumbersome, inefficient, quasi-socialist approach.
BC now has the lowest personal income tax rate in Canada and one of the lowest corporate tax rates in North America. No fuss, no muss, no government aggrandizement and no complications. I would be in favor of the BC carbon tax and its uses, but only if it were adopted all over the US.
Carbon Tax Impact On A Typical Family, as reported on VTDigger:
– The carbon tax would impose a $10 per ton tax of carbon emitted in 2017, increasing to $100 per ton in 2027.
– The carbon tax would generate about $100 million in state revenue in 2019 and about $500 million in 2027.
– The carbon tax would be added to the fuel prices at gas stations and fuel oil/propane dealers. Drivers should expect a tax increase of 9-cent per gallon of gasoline in 2017, increasing to about 89 cents in 2027.
– Homeowners, schools, hospitals, businesses, etc., should expect a tax increase of 58-cent tax per gallon of propane and $1.02 per gallon of heating oil and diesel fuel in 2027.
– A typical household (two wage earners, two cars, in a free-standing house) would pay additional taxes in 2027 of about:
– Some of the carbon tax extortion would be at the pump, some when the monthly fuel bills arrive, and some as higher prices of OTHER goods and services.
Driving = $0.89/gal x 2 x 12000 miles/y x 1/(30 miles/gal) = $712/y
Heating = $1.02/gal x 800 gal/y = $816/y
Total carbon tax in 2027 = $1528/y
Sales tax reduction 5/6 x 1400 = $233/y
Net tax increase = $1295/y
– The hypocritical sop of reducing the sales tax from 6 to 5 percent would save that household about $233 in sales taxes, for a net loss of $1295 in 2027. That means such households, the backbone of the Vermont economy, would have about $1300/y less to make ends meet.
– Many of these households have had stagnant or declining, spendable real incomes (after taxes, fees, surcharges; other recurring expenses, etc.), plus dealing with a near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy, since 2000.
– With less real income, and higher real prices for goods and services, they also would have to make their own energy improvements.
Below are listed the areas of combat that special interests likely would be engaging in. Those areas were not mentioned in the bill, because that would reveal hidden agendas. Once the carbon tax act is safely in place, future “fine-tuning” acts likely would whittle away at the tax credits, etc., and provide even more bennies to special interests, per the “policy”.
The $500 million carbon tax, less $50 million for government overhead, less sales tax reductions*, would be “returned” by the state in a “revenue-neutral manner”, via inefficient, ponderous, government programs; “targeted” tax credits, subsidies, rebates, grants, weatherizing subsidies, etc. The list is long. If you believe that, I have a bridge….
* Sales tax reduction, per proposed bill:
Fiscal year 2018, $31.5 million
Fiscal year 2019, $48.6 million
Fiscal year 2020, and after, $66.8 million
Likely Uses of the Carbon Tax: The paperwork involved would require hundreds of ADDITIONAL bureaucrats at state and local levels. The bureaucrats would develop new rules and regulations and oversee the “allocating” of the carbon taxes. The increased inefficiencies would add additional headwinds against the near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy. Attempts by RE proponents and their shills to justify such follies are like putting lipstick on a pig.
The state likely would allocate the money to various “worthy” programs and projects, as determined by legislators and special interests. The carbon tax would cause an orgy of feasting of unprecedented proportions, as it likely would be used to subsidize:
– Building wind and solar systems on pristine, 2000 ft-high, ridge lines and fertile meadows, that produce variable, intermittent, grid-disturbing, weather-dependent energy, at 2 – 3 times wholesale prices (subsidized), and at 3-5 times wholesale prices (unsubsidized). The energy systems reduce property values, damages health, harms/kills nearby animals, and causes social unrest.
– Weatherizing buildings of low-income households and providing them with heat pumps and solar systems; a boon for rental property owners, who should be required to do that without subsidies.
– Electric vehicles, EVs. Not high-mileage hybrids, as that would “lock in evil fossil fuels”. See note.
– Building of EV charging stations everywhere.
– Charging electric vehicles with reduced-cost electricity. Usually, more upscale households own such vehicles.
– Whatever other programs and projects legislators and RE special interests desire, such as individual rebate credits, low-income supplements, employment-based rebates, market-rate weatherization, low-income weatherization, solar tax credits, etc.
– Businesses to offset any carbon taxes against any taxes on profits, thereby reducing their state profit taxes. That shortfall would have to be made-up by others. This is done to get businesses “on board” to support the carbon tax, i.e., by shifting most of the carbon tax burden to more easily plucked households, which would not be allowed any such offsets.
NOTE: The capital cost of upgrading and maintaining tracks and signaling systems for trains that would serve at the very most 1000 passengers a day by 2020 is an expensive pipe dream. A dozen electric buses with TESLA-type batteries could provide 16-hr back and forth services on existing roads. They would be charged at night during the other 8 hours. Here is an example:
A 40-foot electric bus with (8) li-ion battery packs, 257 kWh of energy, would have a range about 258 miles, at an average speed about 30 mph, which is fairly realistic for a bus, and average energy consumption of about 0.8 kWh/mile, which is very good for a vehicle of that size carrying this many people.
Vermont Electrical Consumption, 2010—2050: With Scott as governor, additional wind turbine plants on Vermont ridgelines would be unlikely for at least the next 4 – 6 years. But the CEP projections show increasing wind energy consumption (bought at about 10 c/kWh, subsidized) and decreasing hydro energy consumption (bought at about 6 – 7 c/kWh, unsubsidized), during these years.
– Increasing wind energy consumption could only happen, if wind energy would be purchased from out-of-state wind plants.
– Increasing hydro energy consumption could happen, if additional hydro energy is purchased from H-Q.
GMP Refusing to Buy Additional Hydro Energy From Hydro-Quebec: According to Donald Jessome, CEO and president of TDI New England, 200 MW of the recently approved, 1000 MW, HVDC line, owned by Blackstone, is reserved for Vermont. “Vermont has the option to purchase up to 200 megawatts, but Jessome said he doesn’t expect the state to take advantage of that option.” Apparently, GMP, et al., prefer to buy much higher-cost wind and solar energy from a variety of local suppliers.
The HVDC line likely will be in operation about 2018 – 2019. The line will run from Canada to a new DC to AC converter station near Ludlow, VT, and feed into an area of the high voltage grid that used to be fed by Vermont Yankee.
The 200 MW could provide at least 1.3 million MWh/y* of low-cost (6 – 7 c/kWh), steady, dispatchable hydro energy from H-Q. This would be in addition to the existing H-Q PPA of about 1.25 million MWh/y, for a total of 2.55 million MWh/y, or about 28% of GMP-projected utility purchases of about 9.07 million MWh in 2050. With additional, privately owned, HVDC lines, the 28% could be increased to at least 40%.
* Equivalent to (7) 63 MW Lowell-type plants; capital cost about $1.14 billion; energy cost about 10 c/kWh, subsidized, 15 c/kWh, unsubsidized.
Even though the money would go out of state, it would be much better than buying subsidized, homegrown wind and solar energy at 2-5 times NE wholesale prices. Vermonters could make better use of the money savings by spending it on increased energy efficiency.
That hydro energy is steady (not variable, not intermittent), has grid-supporting, synchronous rotational inertia, and is renewable, with near-zero CO2 (less than wind and solar), and low-cost (less than wind and solar). It would be very helpful to achieve Vermont’s RE goal.
That energy would be available much sooner, and at near-zero subsidies, and at near-zero capital cost, and zero environmental damage to ridgelines and meadows, and zero social unrest, than an equivalent capacity of subsidized wind and solar systems that would produce high-cost, unsteady, variable, intermittent, potentially grid-disturbing energy. The world would be “saved” much sooner, and at a lower cost!
However, under the RE mantra of “transitioning away from a few large PPAs towards smaller and more diverse sources”, it appears GMP has no intention to SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE its purchases of hydro energy from H-Q. Hydro RECs being less valuable than solar and wind RECs may have something to do with it.
The PSB should demand GMP buy additional H-Q hydro energy, instead of swallowing GMP’s ISP, which has wording in many paragraphs that, in a carefully nuanced manner, echo much of the lexicons and mantras of EAN members.
VERMONT ENERGY INDEPENDENT: Some RE proponents have a fanciful notion of “Making Vermont Energy Independent”. Some legislators repeat it as part of their campaign RE rhetoric and talking points. Either they do not know what that implies, or are engaged in another PR “feel good” that aims to bamboozle Vermonters.
For Vermont to be truly “energy independent”, it would have to disconnect from the NE electric grid, and produce ALL of its energy (not just electrical, which is only 35% of all energy) from IN-STATE energy sources, plus have enough energy storage capacity, in various forms (not just electrical), to ensure adequate energy supply to the Vermont economy, 24/7/365, year after year.
The capital cost of such a statewide energy system would be enormous. The operating and maintenance cost of such a statewide energy system would be several multiples of the existing system. “Sayonara” to the Vermont economy.
Burning Wood Declared CO2-Neutral in Vermont: Proponents of more wood burning, to achieve the goal of “90% RE of All Energy by 2050”, are engaging in a fantasy by simply declaring: “Burning wood is CO2-neutral”. The difference of opinion regarding CO2 emissions from wood burning is not among scientists, but between scientists and wood burning proponents.
“Burning wood is CO2-neutral” is used by wood burning proponents to bamboozle Vermonters. It conjures up the APPEARANCE of meeting CO2 targets. Proponents purposely forget to add: “Over a period of up to 60 years in New England, up to 40 years in the US southeast, if: 1) There is spare Vermont forest area for sequestering (there is not); 2) Logged forests have the same acreage (they do not); 3) Forests are not further fragmented or developed (they are); 4) Forest CO2 sequestering capability, Mt/acre, remains the same (it does not).
Wood Burning Plants and CO2 Emissions: A wood chip power plant or heating plant adds CO2 through: 1) Logging soil disturbance, vehicle transport, equipment use, refurbishments and replacements, diesel fuel burning; 2) Plant construction; 3) Plant O & M, refurbishments and replacements; 4) Plant decommissioning. Those CO2 emissions would require a forest area up to 15% greater than the wood burning CO2 to reabsorb it over up to 60 years.
CO2 Emissions and Sequestering: Vermont CO2 emissions are about 8,370,000 Mt/y*, of which Vermont forests sequester about 8,230,000 Mt/y, 1.82 Mt/acre/y*. The remaining 140,000 Mt/y becomes an annual addition to the atmosphere. Vermont forests cannot sequester all of Vermont CO2, i.e., there is NO spare forest area in Vermont, or elsewhere, to sequester ANY CO2 from wood burning.
*The 1,601,090 Mt of CO2 from wood burning in Vermont is improperly excluded, due to the historical myth “burning wood is CO2-neutral”. See Note.
NOTE: Conversion factor for carbon sequestered by 1 acre of average U.S. Forest = – 0.29 Mt C/acre/year x (44 CO2/12 C) = -1.06 Mt CO2. Vermont claims 8.23 million Mt/y/4,511,000 forest acres = 1.82 Mt/acre/y; Maine claims 0.3 x 44/12 = 1.1 Mt/acre/y. It is not clear why Vermont has such a high value.
Vermont Excessive Harvesting: According to USFS standards regarding nutrition, habitat, etc., Vermont harvest removals should be limited to 979,331 dry ton/y. However, Vermont’s 2014 harvest was 1,330,674 dry ton, an excess removal of 351,343 dry ton., per USFS.
The CEP projects Vermont wood burning biomass, including pellets, to increase from 10.730 TBtu in 2010 to 14.533 TBtu in 2050, about a 35% increase; these are end units, i.e., after burning. See pages 126 and 127. This is feasible, if all of the increase is from NH, MA and NY. Vermont already imported about 371,691 * 0.55 = 204,443 dry ton for wood burning in 2015.
NOTE: If NH, MA, and NY also increase wood burning, the wood available to Vermont likely would become less.
The below tables are based on data from: The 2016 USFS report (based on 2015 surveys); the 2010 BERC update report (mostly based on pre-2010 data); the 2015 VT-FPR report of the 2014 VT harvest; the 2015 wood burning by McNeil and Ryegate.
|2016 USFS Report, based on 2015 survey data||acre||dry ton/acre|
|Forest area, per USFS||4,511,000|
|Aboveground biomass, dry ton, per USFS||282,016,000||62.5|
|Timberland area, per USFS||4,288,000|
|Aboveground biomass, dry ton, per USFS||266,610,000||62.2|
|Harvested area, 41% of forest area, per BERC||1,849,510|
|Aboveground biomass, dry ton, per USFS*||114,994,837||62.2|
|dry ton/y||%/y||dry ton/acre/y|
|Net growth on harvested area, per USFS||2,151,193||1.871||1.163|
|Mortality, per USFS||1,020,266||0.89||0.552|
|Harvest removals of growing stock trees, per USFS||979,331||0.85||0.530|
|2014 Vermont Harvest|
|Harvest for all uses, green ton, per VT-FPR||2,419,408|
|Harvest for all uses, dry ton||1,330,674||0.562|
|VT excess removal of growing stock trees, per USFS||351,343||0.190|
– Harvest for wood burning = mostly low-grade biomass + some dead biomass.
– Dead trees typically are left in the forest for habitat and nutrition. In case of clear-cutting (up to 40 acres is allowed without a permit), near zero is left for habitat and nutrition.
– Net growth = gross growth – mortality
|BERC 2010 Report, based on pre-2010 data||acre||green ton||green ton/acre/y|
|Forest area, per BERC||4,414,884|
|Accessible, Appropriate, Managed area, per BERC||1,812,097||197,518,573||109.00|
|Low-grade inventory of live trees, per BERC||92,476,639||51.03|
|Net Available Low-grade Growth, per BERC||1,757,056||0.970|
|NALG rate (USFS used 1.871), %/y||1.90|
|VT 2014 wood burning harvest; see below table||1,216,167||0.671|
|Remaining NALG for burning, if zero ton for pulp||540,889|
– NALG for burning and pulp is 894,893 green ton/y, per BERC report, mostly based on pre-2010 data.
– BERC assumes a lightly lesser forest acreage than USFS.
– NALG wood is 1,466,982 green ton/y, per 2005 snapshot.
– Low-grade inventory is 51.03/109 = 46.8% of aboveground inventory, per BERC criteria.
– Low-grade wood consists of cull tops and limbs; cull boles; growing stock tops and limbs; growing stock boles.
– Vermont wood burning was 1,216,167 green ton (in-state harvest, 2014) + 371,691 green ton (out-of-state harvest, 2015).
– Pulp log uses are for firewood; pulp/paper mills; biomass power plants; commercial & institutional heating plants.
Vermont’s wood burning harvest was 1,216,167 green ton in 2014, of which 868,825 for space heating and 347,342 for electrical generation. About 347,342/719,033 = 48% of total electrical tonnage was harvested in Vermont. See table and URLs.
NOTE: A standard ton of green wood is 45% H2O, and dry wood is 50% carbon. Burning one ton of green wood creates 2000 x (1- 0.45) x 0.5 x (44/12)/2000 = 1.00833 ton of CO2 emissions.
|VT Harvest||Space heating||Electrical||Electrical||Total Electrical||Total|
NOTE: Below are listed the wood tonnage and combustion CO2 tonnage of Vermont’s wood chip power plants in 2015.
|Vermont Wood Power Plants||McNeil||Ryegate||Total|
|Electrical, wood||2015, McNeil||469,190.0||249,843||719,033|
|Electrical, wood CO2||EPA, McNeil||473,100.4||251,925||725,025|
SPEED Program Produces Expensive Energy: Some years ago, a large quantity of ARRA funds was allocated to Vermont. Instead of wisely using it for energy efficiency, etc., legislators unwisely used the funds, and more, for the heavily subsidized SPEED program, with projects 2.2 MW or less, that produce energy at a COST of about 20 c/kWh, per DPS data. Utilities are forced to buy:
– The mostly variable, grid-disturbing SPEED energy at about 4 times NE wholesale.
– The variable, net-metered, grid-disturbing PV solar energy at 19 c/kWh, about 3.8 times NE wholesale.
New England wholesale prices have averaged about 5 c/kWh for the past five years, due to an abundance of nearby, domestic, low-cost, low-CO2-emitting natural gas.
The RE subsidies would be economically unwise, especially if larger energy quantities were bought at such outrageously high prices in the future, a major headwind for the near-zero, real-growth Vermont economy.
Washington Electric Cooperative will file a request with the PSB to increase rates by about 6%, because of decreasing prices of renewable energy certificate, REC. The REC smoke and mirrors charade appears to be ending. Vermonters get to enjoy ruined ridgelines and ruined fertile meadows, and higher electric rates, but receive NO CREDIT to its RE goals, if RECs are sold to out-of-state entities.
NOTE: The owners of the 20 MW Ryegate wood chip power plant are paid about 10 c/kWh (2 times NE wholesale) for electricity fed to the NE grid under Vermont’s SPEED program; $15.6 million for 156 million kWh in 2015, per DPS; a great deal for multi-millionaires, at the expense of all others.
NOTE: McNeil and Ryegate power plants require about 3412/0.25 = 13,648 Btu/kWh, and have CO2 emissions of about 213 lb/1000000 Btu x 13648/1000000 = 2.91 lb CO2/kWh; that is much worse than coal, which has less than 2.2 lb CO2/kWh. See below notes.
NOTE: Here is a more rational approach than wood burning. A new 600 MW combined-cycle gas plant, CCGT, 60% efficient at rated output, located near Vermont Yankee, would:
– Have a capital cost about $750 million and would be built in about 2 years.
– Use existing grid infrastructure near VT Yankee.
– Would produce about 600 x 8766 x 0.90 = 4,733,640 MWh/y; Vermont supply to utilities is about 6,100,000 MWh/y.
– Produce energy at about 5 c/kWh; much less than SPEED and net-metered.
– Require only 3412/0.6 = 5,687 Btu/kWh.
– Have CO2 emissions of 117 lb/1000000 Btu x 5687/1000000 = 0.665 lb CO2/kWh, about 2.91/0.665 = 4.37 times LESS CO2 emissions than wood burning.
NOTE: Blittersdorf, co-owner of the 10 MW Georgia Mountain Wind Turbine Power Plant, sells all of his wind energy to the Burlington Energy Department for 10 c/kWh; 33,145,000 kWh for $3,314,500 in 2015, per BED. The plant capital cost was $28 million, partially offset by federal and state, upfront, CASH GRANTS of about 35% ($10.15 million). All can be written off in about 5 years, courtesy of an “accelerated depreciation” law for wind turbines. BED sells the RECs (current prices about 2.5 c/kWh) to out-of-state entities to reduce its cost to about 7.5 c/kWh. NE wholesale prices averaged 5 c/kWh for the past 5 years.
NOTE: The Warren Buffett rationale for wind turbines: “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. We get a tax credit, if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit”. He is referring to the PTC of 2.3 c/kWh (inflation adjusted), with US wholesale prices at 5 c/kWh, the PTC has been a huge federal government giveaway for more than 20 years, and that is just one of the subsidies. No wonder wind energy is so “competitive”. With enough subsidies, even pigs can be made to fly.
VERMONT’S ECONOMIC FUTURE: More and more Vermonters think they are being had by politicians, who are coddling multi-millionaires at the expense of the shrinking, over-stressed middle class. If times were good, people likely would not mind, but they have been burdened by real income stagnation, and income inequality, and insecurity in an age of technological change and global competition. They feel economically left behind, under threat of immigration and rapid social change, and short-changed by establishment politicians. Most parents expect their children to be worse off than themselves. The American Dream has turned into a forever, out-of-reach illusion, as a mirage in the desert.
Their spendable, real household incomes, after federal, state and local taxes, after rent, after healthcare, after other unavoidable expenses, have been steadily decreasing since about 2000, and especially since 2008, the reason households do not shop as much; do not go out to eat as much. Stores are desperately luring shoppers with discounts. Governments are not collecting enough taxes, without annually increasing rates, fees and surcharges, to keep the ever growing, government establishments going.
As a result, households have less spendable income, i.e., less money for living; less for making general and efficiency improvements to their houses; less for entertainment and vacations; and less for saving for retirement, etc. The carbon tax would further reduce household spendable income and standards of living, a further reversal of the American Dream.
It is sheer robbery to have their hard-earned money distributed by legislators eager to do “constituent service” for politically favored special interests and their quasi-socialistic programs.
RE interests are very much in favor of the carbon tax to further boost their RE businesses, already heavily subsidized by federal subsidies. RE interests constantly remind us they deserve the subsidies, because they “save the world, prevent climate change and global warming” and other such malarkey. The sanctimonious, farcical chutzpah of it all is beyond words.
BUILDING AND VEHICLE ENERGY EFFICIENCY MUCH BETTER THAN A CARBON TAX: Vermont’s best approach would be greatly increased energy efficiency of buildings and vehicles, which are responsible for about 70% of Vermont’s CO2 emissions. Of course, that approach would not lead to the RE Holy Grail, i.e., maximizing the schlepping of federal subsidies into Vermont.
However, it would lead to lower energy bills for already-struggling Vermont households and businesses, trying to make ends meet, with stagnant and declining real incomes, in the near-zero, real-growth VT economy, while paying more and more taxes taxed, fees and surcharges to a bloated, inefficient government sector, growing at the expense of the increasingly hollowed-out, near-zero-growth private sector. Here are some obvious EE measures:
Buildings: Almost all Vermont buildings are energy hogs. The heating, cooling and electrical requirements of buildings are a major percentage of Vermont’s energy consumption. At current electric rates of about 19 c/kWh (including taxes, fees and surcharges), it would be too costly to provide that energy with electric heat pumps to energy-hog buildings. If much more expensive renewable energy would be used, it would be even more costly and calamitous for the competitiveness of the Vermont economy.
Statewide Enforced Building Energy Code: Vermont needs to implement a statewide, energy code for residential housing and other buildings that would be ENFORCED (not suggested), and would require all NEW buildings to be “zero-net-energy” or “energy-surplus”. Denmark already has a “zero-net-energy” code.
NOTE: It would be even better, if they were “off-the-grid” buildings. That can be achieved with about 8 – 10 kW of PV solar on the roof, a battery system, a well insulated, 300-gal domestic hot water tank, and a 3 – 5 kW propane-fired generator. No more energy bills, ever.
The code would significantly reduce the primary energy for building heating, cooling and electricity. Such buildings would healthier, because they have HVAC systems with filters, such as HEPA filters, to remove almost all particles greater than 1 micron. Such buildings would cost about 10% more, but would more than make up for it with their lifetime energy cost savings and CO2 emissions reductions.
– Tens of thousands of such new buildings would be in existence by 2050.
– Thousands of construction workers would learn new techniques.
– Annual building heating, cooling and electricity costs would be reduced by at least 50% to 70%.
– Heat pump capacities and capital costs would be reduced by at least 50%.
– RE system capacities and capital costs would be much reduced.
– Grid expansion capital costs would be much reduced.
– Energy storage capital costs would be much reduced.
– Environmental impacts would be much reduced.
– Social divisiveness would be much reduced.
– The CEP would not be needed.
Electricity Guzzler Tax: An effective way to reduce electricity consumption in buildings is an electricity-guzzler tax. For example, if electricity consumption, kWh/month, is:
– 500 or less, no surcharge
– 501 to 600, a 5c/kWh surcharge
– 601 to 700, a 10c/kWh surcharge, etc.
The tax would be paid as part of the monthly electric bill. Users would quickly reduce their consumption by means of more efficient appliances, LED lighting, solar PV panels, etc.
Vehicle Gas Guzzler Tax: An effective way to reduce fuel consumption of vehicles is a gas-guzzler tax on light-duty vehicles (SUVs, cars, minivans, ¼-t trucks). For example, if EPA Combined MPG is:
– 25 or greater, no tax
– 24, a $100 tax
– 23, a $200 tax, etc.
The annual tax would be paid at time of registration. Owners would quickly acquire vehicles with higher mileages.
SHIFT SUBSIDIES FROM RE TO EE: Doing energy efficiency first and renewables later would be the most economical and rational way to go; especially important when funds are scarce. Governments providing huge subsidies for renewables BEFORE doing a great deal more in energy efficiency is akin to putting the cart BEFORE the horse, like pouring water into a leaking bucket.
It would be much wiser, and more economical, to shift subsidies away from RE programs, that produce just a little of expensive, variable, intermittent, weather-dependent energy, towards increased EE. Most of those RE programs would not be needed, if the funds were used for increased EE.
EE, The Low-Hanging Fruit: EE has not scratched the surface, and is by far the best approach. All the technologies are fully developed. It provides the quickest and biggest “bang for the buck”, and it would:
– Be invisible
– Not make noise
– Not destroy pristine ridgelines and fertile meadows
– Reduce CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates more effectively than renewables
– Not require expensive, highly visible grid build-outs.
– Slow electric rate increases
– Slow fuel cost increases
– Not lower property values
– Not harm people’s health
– Slow depletion of fuel resources
– Create 3 times the jobs and reduce 3-5 times the energy and CO2 per invested dollar than renewables
– End the subsidizing of renewables tax shelters benefitting mostly for the top 1% at the expense of the other 99%
– Be more democratic and equitable, more suitable to the Vermont culture.
– Do all this without public resistance, controversy and social unrest.