Anthony Edwards photo
Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell speaks to legislators and school board members about the utility’s ideas during a breakfast at the Stafford Technical Center in Rutland on Tuesday morning.
RUTLAND — At a legislative breakfast this week, Green Mountain Power Chief Executive Officer Mary Powell pledged that the company will continue to collaborate with educational and business leaders statewide to offset the costs of electric power with green energy products.
She also championed Rutland as a hub for renewable energy projects that will help keep electricity rates low.
She said that seeing young people help build solar panels, as was the case with Stafford Technical Center students recently at the GMP solar farm site on Route 7, is not enough.
“Our goal is to knock the ball out of the park,” Powell told leaders gathered at the technical center Tuesday.
She said 72 percent of customers surveyed want green energy and they don’t want to be charged extra for it.
The company’s goal is to produce more green energy, keep the cost low for ratepayers and make sure it’s reliable, according to Powell.
A South Hero resident, Powell has engaged in community dialogue statewide since she became CEO in 2008. This past year, GMP and Central Vermont Public Service merged.
“The power we have in Vermont is to collaborate,” Powell said, adding that she had already worked with many people in the room — including local state representatives, staff members from the Washington offices of Sen. Patrick Leahy and Rep. Peter Welch and educational leaders around the state.
“There are so many ways to connect, unlike New York City, where I grew up,” she said.
Under Powell, GMP has bought a vacant commercial building in downtown Rutland to create an energy innovation center. The company has also leased property that was a Rutland landfill to build a solar farm and attracted new businesses — like Small Dog Electronics, which will open next year on West Street — to fill empty storefronts downtown.
“I really see the work we are doing in Rutland as a regional and national example of building an approach to successes in the community,” she said.
Powell fielded questions from the audience, including one from newly elected Rutland Town state Rep. Tom Terenzini, who asked about a $21 million “bailout” paid for by ratepayers.
Powell said the money was falsely reported as a bailout. She said the money was used for investments with proven benefits for GMP customers.
She also voiced her support for wind energy, citing the 65 percent of GMP customers surveyed who support wind projects as part of the mix of renewable energy projects undertaken by the company.
“I love the project we did,” Powell said of the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell, which was approved by voters in that town in 2010. It has been opposed by many in surrounding communities.
“The vast majority of folks were supporting it. ... It’s important that everything is in the mix.”
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