St. Albans Messenger, May 9, 2017
Concerns addressed in discovery
By TOM BENTON
Messenger Staff Writer
SWANTON — Swanton Wind’s responses to a second round of discovery in its regulatory review provide clear answers to questions frequently raised by the project’s critics — particularly, whether there is a Vermont-specific need for the power.
Leslie Cadwell, Swanton Wind’s attorney before the Public Service Board, issued responses to discovery questions from the Burlington Electric Department (BED), the Department of Public Service (DPS), not to be confused with the Public Service Board, and to Green Mountain Power (GMP).
The project’s responses to GMP’s questions are most noteworthy.
When GMP asked the project to describe “whether the facility is needed to meet present or future demand specific to Vermont customers,” Swanton Wind responded that the project can help GMP meet one of two directives outlined in GMP’s 2014 Integrated Resource Plan: to “enable and/or invest in cost-effective renewable and distributed generation.”
“As a renewable energy project located in Vermont, Swanton Wind can help GMP accomplish its primary strategic direction by providing GMP with ‘low cost, low-carbon, incredibly reliable energy,’” John Zimmerman, of Vermont Environmental Research Associates, wrote, on behalf of Swanton Wind. “In the [Integrated Resource Plan], GMP demonstrates that it has a need for new wind generation resources such as Swanton Wind.”
Zimmerman also noted that Swanton Wind can help GMP meet a projected 43 percent load deficit over the next 20 years, and estimated that Swanton Wind can increase GMP’s projected annual energy output by 1.1 percent, since Swanton Wind’s estimated annual output is approximately 50 gigawatt-hours.
When GMP asked the project’s representatives to identify “Vermont-specific contentions regarding the need for the project,” Zimmerman responded that “GMP as Vermont’s largest electric utility has identified a need for renewable electric energy that Swanton Wind can fulfill. A long-term, stably priced contract [for] Swanton Wind’s output is also consistent with GMP’s strategy to hedge its generation portfolio against potential future high market price outcomes.”
GMP’s next question was a blunt rephrasing: “Do you contend that the facility meets the requirements of Section 248(b)(2)”—a Public Service Board criterion requiring projects to demonstrate “a need for present and future demand for service which could not otherwise be provided in a more cost-effective manner”— “based on needs that exist only outside of Vermont?”
“Yes,” Zimmerman responded.
GMP asked Swanton Wind for evidence that “thefacility will promote lower priced energy availability within Vermont, to the benefit of Vermont ratepayers.”
“Swanton Wind has not made any representation that the Project will or might promote ‘lower priced energy availability, to the benefit of Vermont ratepayers,’ and does not possess responsive documents,” Zimmerman responded.
GMP also asked the project for evidence that Swanton Wind “will impose no financial risk to Vermont ratepayers and will in fact provide an economic benefit.” Zimmerman responded that Swanton Wind has not asserted the project will be without financial risk for Vermont ratepayers, though he noted the project is not ratepayer-funded, and that Swanton Wind will pay interconnection costs, including upgrades to GMP’s facilities.
“The fact that Swanton Wind might compete with GMP in the wholesale power market is not a financial risk to Vermont ratepayers from the Project, but from GMP’s participation in the market,” Zimmerman said.
GMP asked Swanton Wind to describe any possible “transmission congestion” that could result from interconnecting Swanton Wind. But Swanton Wind responded that the project’s developers believe they can avoid “making a significant contribution” to pre-existing congestion by interconnecting to a 34.5 kilovolt line between north St. Albans and Sheldon substations.
The deadline for participants in the board’s review to submit discovery questions was Monday, May 8, so additional answers from Swanton Wind will be forthcoming.
At the Messenger’s last count, more than 60 parties were participating in the Public Service Board review.
The review is necessitated by Title 30, Section 248 of the Vermont statutes. The ideal outcome of the Section 248 review process, for Swanton Wind, is a “Certificate of Public Good,” a preliminary permit for the project to begin construction.