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GlobalFoundries says it will comply with Vermont's renewable energy requirements

A photo of a man who appears to be white wearing a face mask and gesturing toward an informational display.
Kevin Trevellyan
/
VPR
Ken McAvey, general manager for GlobalFoundries' semiconductor plant in Essex, says the company will move forward with a proposal to become an independent electric utility, after a setback from regulators.

Semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries says it will move forward with its proposal to become its own electric utility, after state regulators told the company last week that it could not skirt the state’s renewable energy standard.

GlobalFoundries, which employs about 2,200 people at its plant in Essex Junction, put forward a proposal to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) last March to separate from its current electricity provider, Green Mountain Power, and buy energy from the regional grid, in order to cut costs.

After months of vocal opposition from environmental and renewable energy groups, the PUC ruled on Thursday that, contrary to its request, the company could not be exempt from state requirements that electric utilities source an increasing percentage of their power from renewable sources.

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

Ken McAvey, the general manager of GlobalFoundries’ sprawling Essex Junction facility, called the renewable issue “negligible,” claiming the company will surpass the state’s requirements.

“We're committed to [a] 100% carbon neutral portfolio, and appreciate the PUC's time and effort and look forward to moving forward,” McAvey said in an interview with VPR.

McAvey did not detail what sources the company intends to draw power from to reach its goal of carbon neutrality.

The company, which uses more electricity than the entire city of Burlington, has said its power costs in Vermont are double what it pays at its headquarters in Malta, New York. McAvey said cutting those costs is an essential move for the company’s future in Vermont.

"For our long-term commitment, we've got to continue to be competitive, and this is a significant focus for us in terms of getting this self-managed utility through,” McAvey said.

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

Opponents to GlobalFoundries’ plan had also questioned whether the PUC had jurisdiction to allow the company to create its own utility. Sen. Christopher Bray, a Democrat from Addison County who chairs the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee, said he’d prefer Global go through the Legislature.

“I would encourage any business that wants to have special treatment to bring it to the Legislature,” Bray said. “That's where the law originates, and if they want to modify it, I think it's much more straightforward to come back to the source of that law and make that request there."

McAvey said the company believes the PUC is the correct venue for its proposal. In its order last week, commissioners said the body has the authority to authorize a new power utility, but not one that’s exempt from renewable energy requirements.

The commission gave GlobalFoundries until March 11 to revise its petition. McAvey said the company intends to meet that deadline.

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

Related Content
  • Vermont utility regulators have ruled that computer chip maker GlobalFoundries can't create its own electric utility that's exempt from the state's renewable energy standards.
  • Back in March, GlobalFoundries — one of the state’s largest employers and biggest consumers of electricity — announced a deal to stop buying electricity from Green Mountain Power and become its own utility. That proposal is now before the Public Utility Commission, the state body that regulates utilities.In the months since it was announced, the deal has raised some big questions: How will GlobalFoundries cut carbon emissions at its Essex Junction plant? Will they be held to the same clean energy standards as other utilities? And does the PUC even have the authority to allow this move?
  • For decades, GlobalFoundries’ factory in Essex Junction has pumped out computer chips. With over 2,000 employees, the company is Vermont’s largest private, for-profit employer. Now, there’s a worldwide chip shortage leading to more business for the plant, which has seen its workforce shrink significantly from its heyday. But the company is investing more heavily in a facility over the New York border, leading some local leaders to question the company’s long-term commitment to Vermont.