HINESBURG, Vt. (AP) – Vermont could get half its electric power from renewable sources within 10 years, including 20 percent from wind, if it gets busy developing the resources now, says a new report.

The report by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, issued Thursday in the front yard of a company that makes testing equipment for potential wind power sites, comes against the backdrop of a debate over energy policy that has grown increasingly heated and increasingly political this election season.

“Energy has become the hot issue of this election cycle because we are too dependent on dirty, dangerous and expensive power,” said James Moore, VPIRG’s clean energy advocate and author of the report.

“But with enough political will, over the next decade we could see Vermont become a national leader by cutting our energy use and getting the power we do need (from) clean, local sources like wind and biomass,” he added.

Stephen Wark, consumer and public affairs director at the Department of Public Service, took issue with Moore’s statement that Vermont’s power sources are dirty and dangerous.

Vermont has the cleanest portfolio of generation sources when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, he said. He called the VPIRG report “provocative,” but said the group’s concerns would have to be weighed against those of a broader range of Vermonters.

Vermont currently gets 36 percent of its power from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant; 34 percent from hydroelectric plants outside the state, mainly in Quebec; 15 percent from the New England spot market; 6 percent from biomass – mainly wood-burning generators; 8 percent from in-state power dams and 1 percent from wind and other renewable sources.

V-PIRG said it wants the state’s 2015 generation portfolio to include 25 percent from out-of-state hydro, 20 percent from the New England market, 20 percent from wind, 19 percent from biomass, 10 percent from in-state hydro, 4 percent small-scale renewable and co-generation and 2 percent methane.

While wind accounts for just 20 percent of the 2015 power mix envisioned by VPIRG, it took center stage Thursday, as the report was unveiled outside NRG Systems. The high-tech maker of wind-testing instruments is headquartered in a 2-year-old “green” building that has won international acclaim for built-in measures to minimize energy usage and generate most of the power it does use.

Jan Blittersdorf, NRG’s chief executive officer, called the goal of getting 20 percent of Vermont’s electricity from wind in 10 years “essentially and easily achievable. … We can easily do this if we get going now.”

Blittersdorf, Moore and other speakers criticized the administration of Gov. Jim Douglas, who has opposed the development of utility-scale wind power projects on Vermont’s mountaintops.

“The current administration is talking about renewables,” and has been encouraging to NRG’s business development, Blittersdorf said, “but they don’t really want our industry to happen in Vermont.”

David Blittersdorf, Jan’s husband and NRG’s chief technology officer, was more blunt after the news conference. “Wind is dead in Vermont until you get a new governor.”

Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs said the administration “supports appropriately sited and scaled wind energy in Vermont.” He said the DPS had supported the East Haven Wind Farm, a proposal for four turbines in the Northeast Kingdom, which was shot down by the Public Service Board.

The board rejected the project mainly because of concerns raised by the Agency of Natural Resources that the developers had not done enough to study their possible effects on bird and bat populations.

AP-ES-08-17-06 1746EDT


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