Energy & Environment

GlobalFoundries pushes ahead with proposal to become self-managed utility

GlobalFoundries exterior
GlobalFoundries' offices in Essex. File photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

GlobalFoundries, Vermont’s largest private employer, is moving ahead with its proposal to become a self-managed utility, a controversial move that has sparked outcry from environmentalists and renewable energy advocates who worry the company will circumvent regulations. 

The company pledges to stay within the bounds of the state’s energy laws, but environmentalists say allowing a company to be its own utility would set a potentially dangerous precedent in the state. 

GlobalFoundries’ newest proposal, submitted on Friday, marks the second try for the company. The Public Utility Commission, which regulates utilities, recently rejected GlobalFoundries’ proposal to become its own utility on the basis that the commission couldn’t exempt the company from the state’s climate and energy laws. 

Per Vermont’s renewable energy standard, utilities in the state are required to purchase increasing amounts of their energy from renewable sources. 

The commission left the door open for GlobalFoundries to proceed with a revised petition that brings the company into compliance with the renewable energy standard. A proposed schedule, which GlobalFoundries submitted to the Public Utility Commission on Friday, requests the commission issue a final order by Sept. 1.  

The company, which consumes 8% of all electricity used in the state, would stop purchasing energy from Green Mountain Power and instead get it from the regional wholesale market, reducing its energy costs. Representatives from GlobalFoundries have told VTDigger that operation costs for their Essex Junction facility cost double those of their New York facility. 

Representatives from the company have said they plan to meet the renewable energy requirements largely by purchasing renewable energy credits, generating solar on site and possibly purchasing energy from Hydro-Quebec, a large-scale hydropower facility in Canada. 

“The continuation of our petition benefits both GF and the state of Vermont,” Ken McAvey, general manager of the Essex Junction facility, said in a statement issued Friday. “It will facilitate our mutual commitment to high environmental standards and renewable energy, as well as provide the means to keep GF cost-competitive, supporting high-paying jobs.”

AllEarth Renewables and The Conservation Law Foundation, parties that have been pushing back on GlobalFoundries’ effort, have filed motions asking the commission to reconsider allowing the company to move forward with its request. 

The Conservation Law Foundation has questioned whether the Public Utility Commission has the authority to approve any part of GlobalFoundries’ request — there’s no precedent for creating a “self-managed utility” under Vermont law. Chase Whiting, an attorney with the foundation, said the commission’s February order denying the company’s request speaks to that issue.

“When we read the order, it seems to explain that GlobalFoundries has created and defined the term ‘self managed utility,’ really, all by itself, because that term doesn't exist anywhere in the statutes,” he said. “For the Public Utility Commission to proceed, it needs to have jurisdiction. It's like a prerequisite.”

While the new proposal addresses concerns around renewable energy laws, GlobalFoundries would need to comply with all of the regulations for utilities in the state, Whiting said, and the company shouldn’t be able to pick and choose. 

“I think that that really is about fairness and equity,” he said. “All other Vermonters and all other Vermont businesses need to comply with the law and don't get to pick and choose what they get to follow and what they get to violate.”

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Emma Cotton

About Emma

Emma Cotton is a Report for America corps member who covers the environment, climate change, energy and agriculture. Previously, she covered Rutland and Bennington counties for VTDigger, wrote for the Addison Independent and served as assistant editor of Vermont Sports and VT Ski + Ride magazines. Emma studied marine science and journalism at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Email: [email protected]

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