COMMENTARY: GMP is committed to controlling cost
With the recent decision by Entergy to shut down the Vermont Yankee power plant, I have heard a lot of questions from our customers about what this means for the price of electricity. The questions all come down to a single concern: Will Green Mountain Power need to charge our customers more, now that Vermont Yankee will no longer be producing power?
The answer is an emphatic "no." GMP has not purchased power from Vermont Yankee in nearly two years. When our last long-term contract with VY expired back in 2012, we were unable to negotiate a power purchase agreement with Entergy that met our commitment to deliver power to our customers at the lowest price possible.
Instead, GMP has kept its focus on holding down costs while investing in renewable energy and a power portfolio that reflects what our customers consistently say they want: clean, green, cost-effective energy. Just last month, we announced that -- despite increases in power supply costs and normal inflation -- we will not increase base power rates for at least two years. In addition, GMP average rates are among the lowest in all of New England, and we are confident this trend will continue for years to come.
I am especially pleased that we are able to hold rates flat for our customers in an environment that is forcing many utilities in New England to ask for increases. Many utilities in our region have recently asked to increase rates. In some cases as much as 18 percent. At a time when costs continue to rise in so many areas of our lives, such as groceries, clothing and gasoline, we believe that these savings are vital to the families and businesses we serve.
We are already experiencing the benefits of our merger with Central Vermont Public Service. One of the conditions of that merger was a promise to return $144 million in savings to our customers in the first ten years. We have already realized nearly $16 million in guaranteed savings following the merger, and our focus on operating efficiencies has saved customers millions more.
We will continue to invest in renewable energy. Developing an energy mix that is rich with locally generated, renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydro-electricity and bio-mass, is a critical piece of our strategy to hold down costs over time. At the same time that we are keeping customer rates flat, we are also producing more renewable energy than at any time in history. Our work to make Rutland the solar capital of New England is already paying off, as our solar investments there have increased dramatically in recent years. Our wind projects in Searsburg and Lowell are generating enough emissions-free, renewable energy to serve more than 25,000 homes.
Finally, we will continue to innovate. The huge success of our recent heat pump pilot rental program is the latest example of our work to present our customers with innovative ways to conserve energy and save money on their energy bills. More than 110 homes in Vermont are now enjoying the benefits of this heat pump system -- improving the comfort of their homes, saving them significant money on their heating bills and helping the environment. We are committed to offering similar products and services that save our customers money.
As the states largest electric utility, we know that delivering reliable, affordable electricity is job one. And we have a responsibility to be renewable and alternative energy leaders with an eye on the future bringing new technology and energy options to the people we serve.
Mary Powell is president and CEO of Green Mountain Power, an electric utility serving 250,000 Vermonters in 202 towns.
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