VEC holds annual meeting

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copyright the Chronicle May 10, 2017


by Elizabeth Trail


JAY — The word on a lot of peoples’ lips at Saturday’s Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) annual meeting was “curtailment.” That means cutting back on renewable energy production when local transmission lines and substations reach their limits.

In Lowell these days, the turbines are off more than they’re on, at least according to one VEC member who spoke from the floor during the question and answer period at the end of the meeting.

“Vermont is full of renewables but we only have four substations,” said electric cooperative CEO Christine Hallquist.   Transmission lines also need to be upgraded so they can carry more power.

The transmission problem was fixed in 2013 with major upgrades to increase the capacity of Vermont’s electrical system, she said, but as the amount of in-state power generation has increased, the area is finding itself up against the limits again.

“And we could have to fix it again in another four years,” she said.

In the meantime there are physical limitations to how much electricity can be moved around the state and out into the wider New England grid.

“Any new generation cannibalizes other generation,” Ms. Hallquist said.

She was explaining some of the stumbling blocks built into Vermont’s ambitious renewable energy program to a group of about 200 people — 120 members and 85 guests — who came to the co-op’s annual meeting at the Jay Peak Hotel and Conference Center.

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