Details bedevil viability of hydro-plant purchase

PUTNEY — Those who want Vermont taxpayers to buy 13 merchant hydroelectric plants, three storage reservoirs, and 30,000 acres of land along the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers from their latest owner, TransCanada of Calgary, Alberta, are overlooking some devilish details:

• These interrelated assets are located mostly in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. How would the state of Vermont administer them? How would towns tax the respective properties? (The New Hampshire state line is along the Vermont side of the Connecticut River.)

• One of these hydroelectric plants dates from the 1970s. Two date from the 1950s; two, from the 1930s; four, from the 1920s; and four, from a century ago.

• According to TransCanada's 2015 Annual Report, “Our hydroelectric power generation facilities in the U.S. Northeast are subject to hydrology risks that can impact the volume of water available for generation at these facilities including weather changes and events, local river management and potential dam failures at these plants or upstream facilities.”

• How much would Vermont taxpayers pay for a state agency owning, operating, maintaining, repairing, and renovating them?

• Could they compete with increasingly abundant, surplus hydroelectricity generated by immense new hydroelectric plants in Québec and Labrador, each easily able to power Vermont during maximum electricity demand?

• Could Vermont taxpayers' interstate power company play in this league? How much would Vermont ratepayers pay to subsidize it?

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates