November 9, 2007

Agencies could ignore new wind bid; Meeting Nov. 20 to decide project's fate

Although Bluewater Wind has revised its offshore wind farm bid to keep the project alive, its fate is in the hands of four state agencies that will soon decide whether to consider it.

Bluewater, which wants to build a wind farm off Rehoboth Beach, submitted a plan Tuesday designed to rein in costs. That was in response to a Public Service Commission staff report last week that said a wind farm plan submitted in September carried too much risk to ratepayers. The PSC staff recommended the agencies reject the proposed contract, and vote to end negotiations between Bluewater and Delmarva.

Four state agencies including the PSC will meet on Nov. 20 to consider whether to proceed with the plan submitted in September or to consider Bluewater’s revised plan.

Bruce Burcat, executive director of the Public Service Commission, said the agencies could conceivably decide to change the schedule and consider Bluewater’s new offer.

“It would be entirely up to the four state agencies to decide if the facts and circumstances warranted such a change at this juncture of the proceedings,” Burcat said.

Philip Cherry, a Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control policy manager, was at Tuesday’s Public Service Commission meeting in Dover. Interviewed before the release of Bluewater’s new proposal, he said the state should consider the proposal before making a decision.

“We’ve invested too much so far, and the prospects for clean energy are excellent. We don’t want to dispose with those prospects prematurely,” Cherry said. His agency is one of the four that will make the decision. He could not be reached for additional comment after Bluewater released its new proposal.

The other two agencies are the governor’s Office of Management and Budget, and the legislative comptroller general.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Public Advocate Arthur Padmore said the state should consider Bluewater’s new proposal.

“If there’s a way to make this work, the parties should have an opportunity to do further negotiations in a short period. It shouldn’t drag on forever,” Padmore said. “This is a case that begs for the highest consideration of the public interest.”

Delmarva’s President Gary Stockbridge said Bluewater is welcome to make a proposal for offering renewable electricity as part of Delmarva’s long-term planning process. “That’s the only way we can be sure, at this point, whether their offer is what’s best for our customers,” Stockbridge said.

The decision also affects Conectiv Energy and NRG Energy, which want to provide a natural gas-fired plant to back up the wind farm. In a memo to the four agencies Wednesday, Conectiv’s general counsel, David Rosenstein, wrote that if the agencies allow Bluewater to resubmit its bid, the PSC staff should wait until the parties have submitted a final offer before weighing in again.

By Aaron Nathans

The News Journal

9 November 2007

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