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Study: Vt. Yankee reducing state's CO2; keeping prices "low"

An independent assessment of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant finds that the facility provides major economic and environmental benefits to Vermont and that the consequences of closing it would be significant. In addition, the only potential solution to replace all or the vast majority of its power near term is to construct a combined cycle natural gas plant. The effects of such a plant and the loss of Vermont Yankee include: Statewide average retail electric prices are estimated to increase by 19 to 39 percent. Without Vermont Yankees power, carbon dioxide emissions, from all sources statewide, would likely increase by two million tons annually, a 100 fold or 10,000 percent increase. Emissions of nitric oxide, a toxic substance which causes the weakening of the earths ozone layer, would increase by 550 tons, a twofold increase from current levels. The potential costs to Vermonters stemming from the need for pollution allowances could exceed $60 million annually for carbon dioxide and $3 million for nitric oxide. These costs would be in addition to the retail price increases. The loss of Vermont Yankee would deprive the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund $4-$7 million per year. The studys author is Howard Axelrod, president and founder of Energy Strategies, Inc. of Albany, N.Y. Axelrod has been a management consultant for over 25 years and has been engaged by a wide range of energy clients, state and federal regulatory agencies, and large industrial users of energy. Axelrod evaluated various alternatives to Vermont Yankee and the feasibility of having these power sources online by March 2012, when Vermont Yankees current license expires. With respect to renewable resources, Axelrod found, There is no question that wind energy and other renewable resources will play a vital role in meeting Vermonts growing energy needs. However, it is highly unrealistic to assume that between the end of 2009 when the NRC [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission] is expected to rule on the Vermont Yankee relicensing application, and 2012, when the original operating license expires, Vermont could add the necessary magnitude of renewable generation. In fact, there are formidable challenges to bringing large amounts of renewable power online, especially near term. Dr. Axelrods study found the following. Wind power. To replace Vermont Yankee with an equivalent number of wind-derived electricity would require the installation of more than 1,500 wind generators. Given that the largest wind farms install only a few hundred generators, the addition of 1,500 generations with the associated transmission lines needed to connect to the Vermont network, 2012 is an unrealistic completion date. Solar. The equivalent number of solar collectors (to replace Vermont Yankee) would require over 2,000 acres of dedicated space just for the solar collectors. To maximize exposure to the sun, an untold amount of land will have to be cleared in order to capture as much sun energy as possible. Wood. The amount of wood and waste wood materials needed to produce the same amounts of electricity as from Vermont Yankee would exceed two million tons of bond-dry wood per year, a Vermont Yankee biofuel replacement would require over 200,000 acres of woodlands to be cultivated each year, which represents nearly five percent of Vermont total geographic space. Axelrod said, There is one alternative to Vermont Yankee that might meet the tight time schedule, namely the installation of 620 MW (megawatts) of combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT). He adds, Unfortunately, CCGTs require large volumes of natural gas and will produce significantly more nitric oxide and carbon dioxide, the latter a major source of global warming. From a cost perspective, a new CCGT will be twice as expensive and significantly more uncertain as the price of natural gas represents more than 70 percent of a CCGTs operating costs. Axelrod emphasized, It should not be misconstrued, solar, wind and biofuels can and should all contribute to Vermonts portfolio of energy resources, but to assume that 620 MW of Vermont Yankee power can be replaced by 2013 is unrealistic. The expanded use of renewable electricity power sources longer term will help reduce Vermonts carbon footprint further. Currently, automobiles account for 46 percent of the states carbon footprint, almost twice the national average of 25 percent. With the electrification of automobiles expected to become more popular in the near future, there will be even more need for clean sources of electricity. Jennifer Clancy, an environmentalist and board member of the Vermont Energy Partnership said, While there is no silver bullet to Vermonts vast and growing energy challenges, a combination of Vermont Yankee and expanded use of renewable sources are central to the states energy future. This report shows the respective roles, and time frame, that these sources can and should play in the coming years.

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