Guest Editorial: Quebec is a key partner in Vermont’s energy future
As Governor of Vermont, one of my first priorities was to strengthen and grow our state’s centuries-long partnership with the Canadian Province of Quebec. I believed then as I do now that this relationship is critical to the success of our great state. Quebec is our largest trading partner and a significant source of clean, stable and, most importantly, renewable energy from Hydro-Quebec. Not only do we share an international border, but we share a deep cultural and historic connection; indeed many families have relatives on both sides.
In December of 2003 I led the first of many delegations north to Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest and I quickly established a professional rapport and close friendship because we both know the importance of the bond our people share. Our Lake Champlain Quadricentennial in 2009 was a great example of how we celebrate our shared history and Franco-American heritage.
In recent years Vermont and Quebec worked together on a host of important initiatives. We committed ourselves to improve the quality of Lakes Champlain and Memphremagog; we agreed, with other states and provinces in our region, to reduce emissions into the atmosphere; we entered into an agreement on reciprocity of child support; we instituted enhanced driver’s licenses for easier transit across the border; we conducted joint training drills in emergency preparedness; and we worked on enhancing our cross-border transportation options.
One of the most important relationships we have with Quebec is around energy. I am proud that our energy portfolio is the cleanest in the nation – we emit less in greenhouse gases than any other state –and our retail electric rates are the lowest in New England. This is due in large part to the very favorable contracts we have negotiated with our energy partners at Hydro-Quebec.
As we look to a new phase in our energy future, the acquisition of our largest utility, Central Vermont Public Service (CVPS), likely by one of two Canadian companies, it is my hope that the focus will remain on what is best for families and employers who struggle everyday to make ends meet. Vermonters are right to measure the outcome of the CVPS acquisition based almost entirely on what it will mean for their electric rates. Two ways to achieve lower rates are to ensure the availability of power and streamlining its delivery to consumers.
While Vermont should continue to explore alternative sources of power, it is essential that we maintain a cost-effective supply of baseload electricity. That means stable, affordable, renewable energy from a source of which we can be proud and a country we can trust. Our neighbors to the north are not an unstable regime far from home; they are a valued ally whose success is integrally tied to our own.
A key cost of doing business – especially in manufacturing and other energy-intensive sectors – is electricity. If we’re going to create more good-paying jobs for the next generation of Vermonters, we need to moderate that cost.
We can be proud that all of our utilities, including our two largest, CVPS and Green Mountain Power, have such a great record of service to our people. This is due to the dedication of the countless hard-working Vermonters who make these companies run. But as I have often said, in order for us to realize savings in our small state, whether in education spending, healthcare costs or electric rates, we must seek efficiencies through economies of scale wherever possible. For this reason, as governor, I supported consolidation of our utilities. There are few, if any, more meaningful ways to reduce costs among regulated monopolies like utilities.
Improving our relationship with Quebec is one of the great accomplishments of my tenure. It is encouraging to see the new administration carry on this important mission. There will be many energy challenges in the future as the demand for electricity grows and, in an increasingly unstable world, it is a great comfort to know that Vermont can look to Quebec as a valued partner and friend.