By Guy Page
For four decades, schools and schoolchildren in Windham County benefited from having a major electric power producer, Vermont Yankee, right in their own backyard. Despite the plant’s closure, it is encouraging to see that, via the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund (VCEDF), the plant’s owner continues to deliver benefits to the local community (“Vermont Yankee settlement money to be used for wood boiler projects,” 8/21).
Fortunately for local schools and for Vermont’s forestry and renewable power economy, a multi-million dollar commitment by Vermont Yankee to the VCEDF has helped fund the installation of new wood-burning furnaces and infrastructure for three area schools, with five more in the works.
Many Vermonters have been helped by the $5.2 million contribution as part of the 2013 master settlement agreement that paved the way for a smooth decommissioning. They include not only local taxpayers and schoolchildren, but also the not-for-profit organizations planning and facilitating the work, and the contractors turning the wrenches and installing the equipment.
The benefit of building wood-fired heating systems in public schools extends beyond Windham County to the entire Vermont economy and to our state’s contribution to reducing greenhouse gases. Vermont’s logging industry faces serious problems, including an aging workforce, prohibitive workers’ compensation costs, and dwindling pulpwood demand from our increasingly paperless society. For an industry yearning for hope, the cost-effective transition of public buildings to pellet-stove heat creates a large potential market.
When it was making electricity, Vermont Yankee’s contributions to clean, safe, affordable, reliable energy and a strong statewide economy were immense. It is heartening to read that almost three years after the plant shut down for the final time, Vermont Yankee is still promoting a strong economy and a cleaner environment.
Guy Page is the communications director for the Vermont Energy Partnership, a not-for-profit coalition of individuals and industry, labor, utility, and development organizations committed to clean, safe, affordable and reliable energy policy in Vermont. Vermont Yankee is a VTEP member.