Hey, remember when the state Public Utility Commission ruled against GlobalFoundries’ request to become its own electricity provider? Well, the PUC gave the company until March 11 to come back with a new filing.
For those keeping score at home, that’s tomorrow.
And yes indeed, I’ve been told that GlobalFoundries will file for reconsideration by the PUC despite the fact that it had insisted it would go ahead with its plan without PUC approval.
In its February ruling, the PUC said it had the authority to grant GF its independent status, but not to give GF an exemption from Vermont’s renewable energy standards. After the ruling, GF said it would go ahead without that exemption because meeting the RES targets would be no problem.
I guess the overlords of Essex have had a change of heart. Which isn’t too much of a surprise, since they’ve done that before.
A brief recap of events. GF filed its request about a year ago. It had the support of Green Mountain Power, the utility that stood to lose GF as a customer. Which is a thing, since GF accounts for 8% of Vermont’s total electricity consumption. The request drew opposition from the Conservation Law Foundation, Renewable Energy Vermont, and AllEarth Renewables, which argued that the PUC lacked the authority to create an independent utility — a category that doesn’t currently exist — unless granted that power by the Legislature.
(Although we still await GF’s filing, CLF and AllEarth have already filed their objections, according to AllEarth President/CEO David Blittersdorf.)
Their real problem with the request was GF seeking an exemption from renewable energy standards. If it won that exemption and failed to meet the RES targets, that would put pressure on the other 92% of the electricity market to make up for GF’s shortfall.
GF’s response was that it didn’t really matter because it would have no trouble at all meeting, or even exceeding, RES targets. Which kind of made you wonder why it was seeking the exemption in the first place, but it soldiered on, adding more billable hours to its legal expenses. (Reminder: GF’s chief attorney in the case is former House speaker Shap Smith.)
Even more curious is that the Scott administration did its level best to allow GF to agree to voluntary RES standards not necessarily as stringent as the standards set in law — but the admin and GF couldn’t reach agreement on terms.
Again, if it was so simple for GF to meet RES targets, why did it hardball a friendly administration to the point where the two sides gave up on the idea?
Another thing. GF argued that it didn’t need PUC approval to start its own utility, and that it was doing so in order to preserve Vermont’s utility regulatory system. You know, the system GF found to be excessively onerous.
Also, GF insisted it needed fast-track approval by the end of 2021 so it could properly plan a utility rate case due in January 2022. That didn’t happen, and seemed to make no difference to GF. Yup, it created a fake deadline meant to force a notoriously slow PUC to get on the stick.
That brings us to February’s back-and-forth, in which the PUC said it couldn’t grant an exemption from renewable energy standards and GF insisted it could go ahead without such an exemption because meeting the targets would be child’s play.
And now here we are, on the eve of the PUC’s deadline to reopen the case. And GF has apparently decided it really needs that exemption after all.
All I can say is that whirling dervishes got nothing on GF’s legal team.
And that GF is really and truly desperate to get this thing it insists it doesn’t need.
John, there’re some nuances in the vocabulary here. I’d be surprised if the opponents argued that the PUC lacked the authority to create a new utility. And heaven only knows what GF thought they sneak through under its “independent utility” fabrication. The PUC’s power to create, modify, and merge utility service territories is firmly etched in statute. (Full disclosure: in the early ’90s I was a PUC (then PSB) hearing officer who heard a case on the merger of two electric utilities. The PUC approved it. The legislature was not involved.) The central issue in the recent GF case was, as you note, whether the PUC has authority to relieve a new utility, “independent” or otherwise, of its statutory obligations. It does not, and it ruled accordingly. Global Foundries once again is showing its true colors, which are not, shall we say, quite Vermont green. And no one should be fooled that giving the company what it wants will prevent its exodus from the state. If the company is going to leave, it will: relief from the portfolio requirements for renewable energy will do nothing to change that. As bad as that will be, we’re fortunate that the state’s economy and job market are in a much better position to absorb the loss, than they were when IBM employed more than 10,000 people there. We survived that co-dependency at least (though not without pain). I’m just disappointed in Shap.