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Vt. regulators say GlobalFoundries can't form its own utility exempt from renewable energy standards

A man walks down in a hallway in a building with the words Global Foundries written on the wall.
Kevin Trevellyan
Vermont's Public Utility Commission has ruled GlobalFoundries, which operates in Essex Junction, can not create its own utility that's exempt from the state's renewable energy requirements.

Vermont utility regulators have ruled that semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries can't create its own electric utility that's exempt from the state's renewable energy standards.

GlobalFoundries, which has a plant in Essex Junction and employs about 2,200 people in the state, had asked the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to allow it to separate from Green Mountain Power and buy its electricity directly from the grid in order to cut costs. Company leaders have said GlobalFoundries pays significantly less for electricity at its facility in Malta, N.Y.

More from VPR: Reporter debrief: GlobalFoundries wants to become its own utility. Is that even allowed?

Under the plan, Global's Essex Junction plant would become what the company called a "self-managed utility." Global also argued it should be exempt from the state's renewable energy standard, which requires electric utilities to get a percentage of their power from renewable sources.

In an order released Thursday, the commission said that it doesn't have the authority to allow such a move. While the commission can allow the creation of a new public utility, it says it can't exempt a utility from the renewable energy requirements. A GlobalFoundries spokesperson says the company is reviewing the order.

More from VPR: GlobalFoundries is growing amid the chip shortage. But is it committed to Vermont?

The Conservation Law Foundation, or CLF, an environmental group which intervened in the PUC case and opposed GlobalFoundries' proposal, celebrated the decision.

"These laws... exist for a reason, to prevent climate pollution," said Chase Whiting, a CLF staff attorney, referring to the state's renewable energy standard for electric utilities. "GlobalFoundries should comply with the law in the same way everybody else has to."

Utility commissioners said GlobalFoundries could return to the PUC with a new proposal that's in line with the state's renewable energy requirements. But a group of GOP lawmakers worry the decision could imperil the company's future in Vermont.

"To me, it would be another nail in the coffin," said Colchester Republican Rep. Patrick Brennan. "I don't see them sticking around without the opportunity to save millions of dollars."

In a statement, the House Republican Caucus called on the Legislature to "make an exemption" this session for GlobalFoundries to allow the company to become an independent utility.

The PUC gave GlobalFoundries until March 11 to come back with a new filing, without a proposed exemption to the renewable energy standard, if the company wishes.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Henry Epp @TheHenryEpp.

Updated: February 18, 2022 at 3:21 PM EST
This story has been updated to add additional detail, as well as quotes from Chase Whiting of the Conservation Law Foundation and Rep. Patrick Brennan.
Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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