FTC asked to consider utility's renewable energy claims

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A group of four environmentalists on Monday asked the Federal Trade Commission to determine if Vermont's largest electric utility is making deceptive claims about some of the renewable energy it produces.

In their petition, the environmentalists say Green Mountain Power claims its customers are getting some of their electricity from renewable sources such as ridgeline wind turbines, but then sells the rights to the renewable energy claim to other utilities while still telling Vermont customers they are using renewable power.

"By not being straight with its customers, GMP is denying them the opportunity to look for other genuine sources of renewable energy," said the petition filed Monday on behalf of Bruce Post, Curt McCormack, Charles Johnson and Kevin Jones by the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at the Vermont Law School.

GMP spokesman Dorothy Schnure said the utility fully explains its use of renewable energy credits, including that some are sold out of state.

"We support renewable development and have been very clear to our customers that presently we sell the RECs from our renewable generation, which reduces customers' rates by as much as 5 percent and allows others to claim the renewable attributes," Schnure said.

Renewable energy credits from Vermont are often purchased by utilities in southern New England that are required to provide their customers with a certain percentage of renewable electricity, but do not own the sources of production, such as wind or solar, that make the power.

The petition alleges that GMP sells 90 percent of the credits produced by a 63 MW wind project in Lowell, a 6 megawatt project in Searsburg and several "community" solar power projects in Rutland County.

It says that at the same time, GMP uses the same credits to meet the goals of Vermont's 2005 renewable energy law. The practice has caused some to stop trading Vermont energy credits, the petition said.

The petition calls the practice misleading.

"We are basically sacrificing our ridgelines in Vermont to wind projects so that these utilities in the southern part of the region can satisfy their legal requirements," said Patrick Parenteau, one of the attorneys who signed the petition

The petition asks the FTC to investigate GMP's renewable energy marketing practices and, if that investigation determines the utility was being deceptive, to order it to stop.

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