Steve Thurston: Adding insult to insanity

on February 28, 2024

by Steve Thurston

When the Public Utility Commission tells the legislature that a bill that does nothing to solve global warming will cost Vermonters $1 billion, and legislators vote for it anyway, it’s time for the voters to thank them for their service and show them the door on election day.   

H.289, an Act Related to the Renewable Energy Standard, sponsored by the chair and co-chair of the House Energy and Environment Committee, requires Vermont’s electric utilities to generate 100% of their electricity with wind turbines, solar panels, running water, and battery storage within the next 6-10 years.  Utilities that cannot accomplish this will be punished for their non-compliance and will pass those compliance penalties on to their customers, the ratepayers.  This bill has the fingerprints of the renewable energy lobby all over it.  “Vermont must lead the way in saving the planet!” is their mantra.  “Why?”, we ask.  

Senator Chris Bray, Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, described the situation this way on 1/24/23,  “The North Star is reducing greenhouse gases, because the physics of the problem we’re facing are that if we don’t reduce greenhouse gases, we trifle.  Now, we can talk about Vermont’s role and all that kind of stuff, but on this point we’re clear, both in law and I’d say we have a moral obligation to address that problem.”   

The “law” Bray is referring to is the Global Warming Solutions Act, which he championed and helped force into law over Governor Scott’s veto in 2020.   Every Republican voted against the GWSA.  But to the Super Majority Democrat/Progressive legislature, Republicans, including the governor, are non-persons whose views need not be considered.    

Senator Bray’s “moral obligation” argument presumes that those who disagree with his understanding of physics are immoral, or at least not as moral as he is.  Ask yourself, “How moral is it to draft a law, force it into effect over the objections of the Governor and every Republican, and then use that law to justify your otherwise indefensible actions?”  

One could easily argue that Vermont’s existing renewable energy mandates are “trifling” with the well-being of the average Vermont resident.  They receive no benefit but pay ever-increasing rates to subsidize the solar panels and wind turbines installed by subsidy seeking corporations and upper income property owners who can take advantage of tax credits.  

Senator Bray says, “We can talk about Vermont’s role and all that stuff”, but he ignores the voices of Vermonters.  The PUC surveyed 700 Vermonters about their electricity priorities last summer.  87% said reliability and affordability were very important.  More important than emissions or renewables were impacts on the environment and support for a strong economy, 66% and 67%.   Only 55% said reducing emissions or whether the source was renewable was very important.  Vermonters have a different “North Star” than Senator Bray. 

Will Vermont’s solar panels and wind turbines make a difference to the climate?   Even the sponsors of this bill admit they won’t.  Co-sponsor Laura Sibilia said the following to her colleagues in the House last session when reporting the deceptively titled “Affordable Heat Act”, “We have heard folks say that stopping all of Vermont’s emissions would do nothing to change the weather patterns that we are seeing with climate change.  With apologies to my environmental friends, I mostly agree.”  She then went on to say that volatile global fossil fuel prices were the real reason we needed to put an estimated 70 cent per gallon tax on home heating oil with the “Affordable Heat Act”. 

Increasing Vermont’s renewable mandates from current levels to 100% is adding insult to insanity.  The proof is this winter’s weather. Heavy cloud cover and calm days have reduced the output of solar panels and wind turbines, for weeks at a time, to a trickle that would not keep a light on over your kitchen table, much less charge your EV or run your heat pump.  Thankfully the grid operator has dealt with this situation by making sure that zero emission nuclear and Canadian hydro plants, as well as low polluting natural gas plants have been running 24/7 to avoid the blackouts that would have resulted if the grid relied on 100% renewables.

We are told that the “energy transition” away from the existing grid is unstoppable, and we just need to get on board.   In fact, the push towards “Net Zero by 2050” in New England is due to Democrat state energy policies forcing ISO-NE to experiment with increasing amounts of volatile wind and solar energy that turn the smooth curves of load management into jagged lines of spikes and dips and add unnecessary costs to electricity rates.  

Wind and solar are the grid operator’s worst nightmare.  Imagine you are the grid operator and just as the sun goes down and everyone gets home from work and turns on the lights and appliances the single biggest generator for the last few hours suddenly shuts down because the sun has disappeared from the sky?  Where does the electricity come from then?  The existing grid of course.

In short, there will be no “energy transition”.  Wind turbines and solar panels will not replace the need for existing sources of reliable, on-demand generation.  The conventional grid must be maintained and paid for.  Renewables only add to that cost.   

Several Democrats in the House Ways and Means Committee said they would not vote for this bill when it reaches the House floor out of concern for the $1 billion dollar impact on their constituents.  That’s encouraging.  Let’s see if they survive the beating they will take from the Democrat leadership.  Maybe their courage will spread to other clear-thinking members of their party. 

Penned by Steve Thurston, a retired general contractor and home builder from Ferrisburgh, this commentary highlights his unwavering dedication to energy efficiency and conservation. As a founding member and co-chair of Maine’s Citizens Task Force on Wind Power, he played a pivotal role in 2011 by spearheading a triumphant citizens petition. This petition led to the creation of a specialized section within Maine’s noise regulations, specifically addressing the issue of wind turbine noise.

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Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT

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(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/From Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/From Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.” https://www.pinetreewatchdog.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

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