Speaking at a Montpelier energy forum April 22, several energy experts described in detail the electric transmission challenges, job and economic losses, and electricity rate increases that are likely to result if Vermont Yankee closes in 2012.
The experts spoke to about 40 Vermont business, agriculture and labor leaders at the "Good Energy Policy Is Good Economic Policy" forum, sponsored by Local Chapter 300 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Vermont Energy Partnership.
Eric Wilkinson, external affairs spokesperson for ISO-New England warned of resulting transmission overload and low voltage, both of which would damage equipment and cause cascading power disruptions. ISO-New England manages the "grid" of New England transmission and generation.
Based on his recent study economist Richard Heaps described the eventual loss of 1,288 Vermont jobs and $93 million in annual payroll. In particular, Windham County, already hard-hit by the recession, would lose more than 1,000 jobs with $84 million in annual payroll.
Electricity rates could increase well over 30 percent depending on what forms of power replace Vermont Yankee, energy planner Dr. Howard J. Axelrod described as a result of his updated analysis.
Vermont faces electric transmission challenges regardless of whether Vermont Yankee closes, Wilkinson stressed, but also noted that the overload and low voltage scenarios he described will be worse if Vermont Yankee is taken offline.
Wilkinson also emphasized that Vermont may experience higher prices for ISO's "system power" generated out-of-state should the loss of Vermont Yankee force the system to buy power from more expensive power plants, which is a strong possibility, he said. The other New England states would effectively penalize Vermont ratepayers for removing Vermont Yankee's low-cost power. A comprehensive ISO-New England study of transmission and cost challenges associated with Vermont Yankee's possible closing is expected to be concluded by the end of 2010, Wilkinson said.
A February 2010 study by Heaps found that 1,288 Vermont jobs would be lost if Vermont Yankee closes. This figure combines plant employees, vendors and contractors who benefit directly from the plant's operation as well as local businesses in an around the plant.
Heaps, president of Northern Economic Consulting of Westford, said the impact would be acute in Windham County, which he said is becoming as jobs-challenged a region as the Northeast Kingdom.
Windham the state's most southeastern county and home of Vermont Yankee has lost jobs every year since 1999. Median family income is fourth lowest of Vermont's 14 counties. As one of the few recession-resistant employers, Vermont Yankee's loss would take a devastating toll on an already struggling local economy, he said. Additionally, the state would lose roughly $15 million in annual tax revenues and $93 million in annual payroll.
Axelrod has found that closing Vermont Yankee would lead to overall electricity price increases of 19-39 percent, depending on the type of replacement fuels that are used.
Axelrod discussed the factors affecting price increases. Axelrod's updated analysis of electric costs and replacement power is expected to be available in the coming weeks.