GlobalFoundries seeks to cut the cord with Green Mtn. Power

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 5:37 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - The company with Vermont’s biggest appetite for electric power wants to cut the cord with Green Mountain Power and become its own utility. If approved by Vermont regulators, GlobalFoundries would be able to save money buying power directly from the regional market. But some critics are concerned it would allow the chipmaker to avoid meeting the state’s long-term greenhouse emission goals.

GlobalFoundries Essex Junction plant accounts for eight percent of all of Vermont’s electric usage, but the rate for that power is about 80% higher than the company pays at its facilities in New York. The company believes it can get better rates by buying directly from the regional market.

Like other utilities, Global would be regulated by the state and subject to the state’s climate goals of reducing purchases of energy generated from fossil fuels. In a recent letter of intent, Scott administration officials are coordinating on a plan to voluntarily cut pollution.

“Our goal is to make sure they are reducing their emissions as a whole and that is part and parcel with the work that the state is doing with the Global Warming Solutions Act requirements,” said Vt. DEC Commissioner Peter Walke. Those requirements mandate Vermont cut its greenhouse gasses to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.

But some are concerned that in the tentative agreement, there are no commitments to reduce global’s pollution past 2025 and that the company will be buying energy produced from coal and oil. Peter Sterling, president of Renewable Energy Vermont, says the state’s climate goals go out to 2050. “Every other business, every other homeowner, every other Vermonter will have to work harder to meet those emission reductions because GlobalFoundries is exempt from them. We’re all going to have to pay the bill because GF is exempt from them. We’re all going to be asked to pay the bill for allowing GlobalFoundries to pollute,” he said.

State leaders say Vermont is committed to holding the chipmaker accountable in meeting climate goals and they say carbon reductions will be rolled out one step at a time. “We need to make sure we can get moving now so that we can hit those 2025 targets and continue to work on the 2030 and 2050 targets. The actions taken now will have a significant impact on 2030 and 2050,” Walke said.

GlobalFoundries declined an interview but in a statement said they say they’re already rolling out their own zero-carbon program. “...GF has a strong incentive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and plans to continue operations, contribute to the important work that protects and preserves the environment, make future investments to grow our operations in Vermont, and continue to have a significant, positive impact on Vermont’s economy.”

And the company’s economic impact is significant, offering high-paying jobs to some 2,200 people. Walke says the negotiations are a balance of Vermonters interests. “To try to make sure that we have good-paying employers in the state that can provide good jobs for Vermonters so that we can meet affordability goals for electricity and so that we can meet our climate goals. All of these issues are at play and if we can come up with an agreement that meets all of them, great. If not, we’ll keep working on it,” he said.

If approved, Green Mountain Power would lose its biggest customer. Under the tentative deal, Global would pay GMP $15 million over four years to offset the costs of the transition on ratepayers. The Public Utilities Commission is slated to vote on the request by the end of the year.

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