This commentary is from Stuart Blood of Thetford, a retired software engineer.
On December 10, my state representative, Jim Masland of Thetford, joined with other Vermont lawmakers in opposing a proposal that would exempt Vermont’s largest user of electric power from the Vermont standard. state on renewable energy and the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act.
Masland was one of 22 House members and six Senators who signed a letter to the Vermont Public Utility Commission requesting the denial of a petition by GlobalFoundries to become an independent electric utility.
GlobalFoundries, one of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturers, owns the former IBM plant in Essex Junction and Vermont’s largest private sector employer. On behalf of the company, it uses 8% of the state’s electric power, more than the city of Burlington as a whole.
If approved, the proposal to establish a “self-managed utility” would allow GlobalFoundries to purchase wholesale electricity from power plants without complying with the renewable energy standard, rather than through Green Mountain Power, which must comply.
Members of Gov. Phil Scott’s administration approved the proposal, along with a plan for the company to follow a different greenhouse gas emissions protocol than required by the Global Warming Solutions Act. A Letter of Intent, signed in October by the heads of the Civil Service Department and the Department of Environmental Conservation, outlines a plan for GlobalFoundries to avoid the rules adopted in the future.
This plan failed when it became clear that GlobalFoundries had provided inaccurate data on greenhouse gas emissions to the government.
The letter from the lawmakers points out that the PUC does not have the statutory authority to grant authorization to any entity that “would be authorized to circumvent legislation such as the renewable energy standard or the global warming law”. He says such a plan “should go through the legislative process, especially at a time when other utilities and Vermonters are working hard to comply with the requirements mentioned above.”
The nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation opposes GlobalFoundries’ petition and has been granted intervenor status by the PUC.
GlobalFoundries’ proposal is supported by both Green Mountain Power and the State Department of Civil Service.
The question arises as to why the state would argue for a global business at the apparent expense of Vermonters who are being asked to make sacrifices to avoid uncontrollable climate change. The recent history of the operation raises even more questions.
GlobalFoundries is 89% owned by Mubadala investment, the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates, with current assets of $ 243 billion. In April 2021, GlobalFoundries moved its headquarters to Malta, New York, where it plans to invest $ 1 billion in an existing semiconductor facility and an additional plant.
In June, GlobalFoundries announcement a $ 4 billion expansion of its plant in Singapore, in partnership with that country’s Economic Development Council.
In July, the CEO of GlobalFoundries met with the German Minister of Finance and expressed confidence that there will be government funding to expand its facility in Dresden. GlobalFoundries has not announced any comparable investments in Vermont.
Employment at the Essex Junction plant peaked at around 8,500 in 2001, when IBM owned the operation. Since then, the number of workers has steadily declined to less than 2,200 under the ownership of GlobalFoundries.
The company says its energy costs in Vermont are higher than at its New York plant, although it has benefited from low special rates from Green Mountain Power. The chipmaker says it will achieve 50% savings in energy costs if it is allowed to become a self-managed utility, exempt from the renewable energy standard, and it has threatens to “shut down in Vermont” if he does not get the deal he wants.
However, GlobalFoundries may be considering leaving Vermont anyway. Under the proposal submitted to the PUC, the exemption from the Renewable Energy Standard and the Global Warming Solutions Act would pass to a new owner when the facility is sold.
This begs the question: is the state of Vermont ready to dance to whatever tune GlobalFoundries calls for? Will our brave little state increase the resale value of GlobalFoundries property by making it singularly exempt from the requirements of our climate laws, only to see the operation shut down in the next few years?