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Vermont Yankee insurance fund benefits Rutland solar, other projects

VERNON—Anaerobic digester research, renewable energy education, and Rutland solar development are the latest beneficiaries of funding from an old Vermont Yankee insurance policy.

The state Public Service Board has approved Green Mountain Power’s plans to distribute $302,719 from a Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited fund to various projects around the state.

The power company once had an ownership interest in the Vernon plant and is entitled to long-term proceeds related to insurance coverage, with a state mandate to allocate most of that money for development and use of renewables.

“We are thrilled to be able to support a variety of community renewable energy projects with these funds,” said Green Mountain Power spokesperson Dorothy Schnure. “Supporting developing technologies is important as we move to a future where energy is generated close to where it is used, and we continue to have Vermont as a leader in energy transformation.”

Entergy now owns Vermont Yankee and is making preparations for decommissioning the former nuclear plant after stopping power production at the end of 2014.

But prior to 2002, the facility was owned by Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. Central Vermont Public Service Corp. and Green Mountain Power each had an ownership share in that company, and each entity received a portion of the proceeds from Entergy’s purchase of the plant.

When the state Public Service Board approved the plant’s sale, officials also noted that Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. likely would continue to receive money from various sources. That included future refunds from the investments of Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited, which provided coverage for Vermont Yankee.

Green Mountain Power now is the sole owner of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. Periodically, the company submits a plan to the Public Service Board for use of Vermont Yankee insurance fund disbursements.

Earlier this year, those funds benefitted solar development statewide as well as a small hydroelectric system in Waterbury.

A Public Service Board order dated Aug. 19 shows how the latest round of funding will be used:

• The largest portion — $152,719 — will boost the GMP Renewable Development Fund “to support the development of electric generation fueled by anaerobic digesters,” board members wrote.

Green Mountain Power already is in that business via its “Cow Power” program, which encourages farmers to turn cow manure into electricity via digesters that produce methane gas.

• In a similar vein, an additional $75,000 will help fund work on “a unique algae culture system integrated with a dairy farm-based anaerobic digester system,” officials said.

• Vermont Energy Education Program will get $30,000 for its renewable-energy education programs in elementary, middle and high schools.

• The final $45,000 will go toward installation of residential solar systems in the city of Rutland’s northwest section.

Rutland Mayor Chris Louras said the new solar funding is yet another example of the ongoing collaboration between the city and Green Mountain Power as part of Rutland’s “Project Vision” revitalization effort.

“We were awarded a Vermont Community Development Program grant of $1.25 million to remediate blighted conditions and encourage low-moderate income home ownership through our housing partner, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont,” Louras said. “These solar projects will make home ownership more affordable in a neighborhood that has seen over $5 million in public/private investment including GMP’s Rutland Blooms tree, flower, and community garden-planting initiatives.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #381 (Wednesday, November 2, 2016). This story appeared on page E2.

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