Year in Review: Energy - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Year in Review: Energy

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The future of Vermont Yankee took center stage in January-- a federal judge ruling against the state of Vermont in its quest to shut down the plant.

"Gut reaction is I am very pleased with this ruling," Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, said Jan. 20. "It is what the town of Vernon hoped would happen."

"This is a dinosaur of a plant being run by Keystone Kops," Paul Burns of VPIRG said Jan. 20.

The ruling said the Legislature should not have considered safety issues when voting against a new license for the plant.

Yankee's old license expired in March. It is still open. A federal appeal is pending. And now the state Public Service Board is holding hearings on whether to grant the plant a certificate of public good, allowing it to stay open for another 40 years.

A mega power merger fueled controversy-- Green Mountain Power and its plan to buy Central Vermont Public Service. Some worried about a Canadian conglomerate controlling most of the state's electricity.

"It's like anything else-- when you have a monopoly there's no competition," Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans, said Jan. 20.

But GMP's decision to not refund $21 million to CVPS ratepayers drew the most public outrage. Thousands signed a petition saying CVPS owed customers checks to make good on a deal allowing CVPS to charge higher rates to bail the company out 10 years ago.

"This is a campaign that is about fairness, doing what is right," Greg Marchildon of AARP Vermont said Jan. 18.

But GMP won that fight. The merger went through in June and that $21 million went into an energy efficiency fund, not directly to customers.

"The order clearly highlighted the value to Vermonters," GMP President Mary Powell said June 15.

Part of the GMP merger-- turning CVPS's hometown into a solar city.

"Eighty percent of the property will be filled with solar panels," Steve Costello of GMP said Aug. 2.

The company is investing hundreds of thousands to showcase solar energy in Rutland, planning to turn a blighted section of Cleveland Avenue into a solar farm churning out 150 kilowatts each day.

Drama in July as protesters took on a wind farm atop Lowell Mountain, trying to block the arrival of the first turbine parts.

"What we're trying to do is to make this an example of bad decision making for the entire state, so that it doesn't happen again on some other ridge line," protester Steve Wright said July 16.

The scuffle just one of many demonstrations that sometimes slowed but did not stop GMP's project.

As the turbines went up, so did calls for a statewide moratorium on wind projects. Neighbors complaining about the view and the noise.

"I was shocked to hear them this far, especially that loud," Mike Nelson of Albany said Nov. 14.

No moratorium, but wind developers rushed to complete projects from Lowell to Georgia in time to cash in on federal tax credits. The incentives expire at the end of the year.

The loss of those tax breaks also meant a hit for wind companies. Vermont-based NRG Systems cut 30 jobs-- one-third of its staff.

"It was just heartbreaking frankly to lay people off," Jan Blittersdorf of GMP said Oct. 1.

After much debate, Montpelier will partner with the state on a big biomass facility to heat buildings throughout the downtown.

And 2012 closes with a looming battle over a natural gas pipeline under Lake Champlain. Vermont Gas and International Paper in Ticonderoga, N.Y., made a deal. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came through with money to help fund it. Now, it needs permits.

Vermont Gas is also working to get permits to extend its pipeline south from Chittenden into Addison County.

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