"We simply cannot afford to have IBM decide that the cost of doing business in Vermont is too high," said Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans Counties.
Which is why senators from the economic development committee lent an ear to officials at IBM in Essex Junction Wednesday, to discuss what to do about rising energy costs in the state for its largest employer if Vermont Yankee shuts down.
"We really need to push for an update to the state energy plan, and we need to be very open-minded in the solutions that can be part of that plan," said Jeanette Bombardier of IBM.
IBM's facility manufactures semiconductors for consumer electronics from LCD televisions to wireless routers to smart phones. Their specialty competes head-on with companies overseas in China and Taiwan and those companies get cheap government-subsidized energy.
"So if we are going to be in these markets, we have to be cost competitive or we won't be here," Bombardier said.
So naturally IBM has lots of questions and wants answers on exactly what the Legislature will do to help.
"How do we make up that generation? Where will it come from, what will cost? When will it be online?" Bombardier asked.
IBM pays about $35 million a year to power its Vermont facility. And the company estimates those costs will go up by 25 percent if Vermont Yankee goes off line.
"When you have the largest employer of the state saying that their power bill is going to go up about $7 million a year, that's a concern," Illuzzi said.
Illuzzi wants to explore the idea of a combined heating and power plant created on IBM's campus as a way for the company to address its power needs.
"Which would not only ensure reliability here at IBM but also for the entire Chittenden/Franklin County region," Illuzzi said.
But IBM says it has no interest in getting into the energy business.
"I don't want to own and IBM doesn't want to own a power plant," Bombardier said. "We don't want to run a power plant; we want to invest in semiconductors-- we don't want to invest in power generation source."
So now legislators want to look into other sources of power to keep IBM in the state of Vermont.
Sen. Vince Illuzzi: Which may mean importing from other sources that Vermonters don't want to hear about.
Reporter Melinda Davenport: Which is nuclear?
Illuzzi: Or coal.
Some feel that Hydro-Quebec could fill Vermont Yankee's void of power production, but the Senate committee argues that the grid coming in from Quebec runs at capacity 18 out of 24 hours a day. So Hydro-Quebec would have to expand their capability to handle IBM's needs.
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