November 16, 2007

Politicians call for open process on electric windfarm

Delaware politicians say they want continued negotiations over a proposed wind farm to supply electricity to Delaware. Echoing a call from Bluewater Wind, which has proposed the project, state officials are urging the Public Service Commission to take a more active role in the negotiations process.

After the PSC staff report issued Oct. 29 did not recommend the Bluewater contract be accepted, there has been significant debate about whether the negotiations will continue or the project will be scrapped.

Bluewater offered significant amendments to its contract to address some of the pricing concerns raised by the staff, Bluewater and Delmarva Power each submitted analyses of the contracts and many members of the public have submitted comments for the PSC to consider. The next step in the process could be determined at the Tuesday, Nov. 20 meeting of the PSC and the other state agencies. That meeting will be held at Legislative Hall in Dover.

Lt. Gov. John Carney, who is running for governor next year, touched on concerns raised recently by both Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power regarding the conduct of negotiations. “We need a process that is transparent and understandable to ratepayers and policymakers. We have reached a critical juncture in this process and it’s important that all parties move forth in good faith,” he said.

Jack Markell, a Democratic candidate for governor, submitted a letter to the PSC. He not only called on the PSC to ensure that negotiations continue but also suggested the commission become directly involved. “What is most important is that the PSC continue these negotiations alongside, on behalf of, Delmarva Power so that all the facts come out, all the options will be displayed and what is best for all Delawareans can be made clear,” he said.

Markell also expressed his concerns over Delmarva Power’s hesitation to negotiate. “It was the immense rise in electricity rates for Delmarva customers in 2006 that led to the issue of achieving price stability over time becoming a front-page issue. Cast in that light, Delmarva’s suggestion that Bluewater Wind’s price structure doesn’t even merit further conversation is problematic,” he said.

“Our overall goal should be to keep offshore wind a viable, potential solution,” said Carney, emphasizing that affordability to ratepayers is most important. “I think the best way to do that is to have the PSC step in and negotiate directly with Bluewater,” he said.

Mike Protack, a Republican candidate for governor, acknowledged that heavy up-front costs could present a problem, but said he continues to be a supporter of a wind farm.

“I want to see them negotiate to find a way to make this happen, not to find a way to stop it,” he said. It would be shortsighted to assume that fossil fuel prices will not increase, he said, and wind is a way to ensure stable energy prices for the next generation.

Minner’s office declined to comment other than to say more time should be taken to review the issues because the long-term supply of energy to the state is very important.


PSC staff report draws fire
Politicians, environmental groups, citizens blast conclusion

A staff report by the Public Service Commission has drawn wide criticism from citizens groups, academics, politicians and concerned citizens.

With Delmarva Power and Bluewater Wind locked in contentious negotiations, the Public Service Commission issued a staff report analyzing the proposed contract.

Issued Oct. 29, the commission report recommended that Delmarva Power not execute the contract with Bluewater as a long-term electric power generator. Since that report was issued, Bluewater eliminated controversial price escalators contained in the contract. But in subsequent back-and-forth filings, Delmarva Power and Bluewater have exchanged accusations of bad-faith negotiations, with each company charging that the other is not looking out for the best interests of Delaware electricity ratepayers.

Written comments in response to the staff report were accepted until Tuesday, Nov. 13. The comments are to be considered before the Public Service Commission holds a meeting with other state agencies Tuesday, Nov. 20, in the House Chambers at Legislative Hall in Dover. Following are excerpts from pages of commentary from numerous sources.

What they’re saying

”The ongoing campaign of misstatements, misrepresentations and utter falsehoods presented by Delmarva both publicly and surreptitiously, in my opinion, suggests that Delmarva Power does not and has never intended to negotiate in good faith and never intended to reach a negotiated agreement with Bluewater Wind.” Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark South

• ”What it all amounts to is that Delmarva Power is doing all it can to kill the wind project…The problem is that Delmarva Power won’t likely negotiate in good faith, and is using its agents in the General Assembly to obstruct.” Green Delaware

• ”Note that we are not idealizing Bluewater. They want to make a lot of money, and clearly overreached with the proposed ‘escalator’ clause…But the bottom line is that we must make a transition to non-polluting energy sources and wind is available and effective.” Green Delaware

• ”I ask myself, does the hierarchy of power exist like this:
1. Corporate interests;
2. State agencies and PSC;
3. Public majority vote

Were the costs to our health, our environment, and our future electricity rising costs comprehensively understood, then the Bluewater bid will be accepted.” Dr. Kim Furtado, Millsboro

• ”We do not feel the Pace report merits a detailed analysis, but introduce on the record reasons that it does not contribute to valid basis for decision by the State…The Pace report presents a distorted picture and one that is at variance not only with the facts but with its own Long Island Power Authority report, issued just three months ago.” Jeremy Firestone, University of Delaware

• “NRG has serious concerns that adequate information was not available for review, as well as serious concerns with the staff and the Independent Consultant’s term sheet evaluation methodology. NRG believes this has resulted in conclusions that are not in the best interests of the people of the State of Delaware or the customers of Delmarva, including the customers taking Standard Offer Service.” NRG Energy

• ”We expect Delmarva will recycle the same old, tired arguments and contentions it has been advancing for months: e.g., it is looking out for its customers (please); there should be an open bidding process (what have we been doing these past 15 months); we should consider “regional” land-based wind power (I guess that means we export jobs and economic development to West Virginia while violating HB6); and renewable alternatives such as solar are cheaper (come again, solar is currently $300/Mwh versus this bid at $106). Needless to say, I find little merit to these self-serving positions.” Jeremy Firestone, University of Delaware

• ”The environmental and health benefits of wind power are self evident. We in Delaware are particularly vulnerable to the potential effects of climate change and need to act to ameliorate the effects in order to prevent rising sea levels. Our citizens need relief from continuing toxic emissions from burning fossil fuels…They are betting that fossil fuel prices will remain flat for the next thirty years. It’s a bad bet. We are holding a potentially winning hand. We must not allow opponents of wind power to force us to fold that winning hand and lose the chance to bring a measure of price stability to our electricity bills for years to come.” Thomas Noyes

By Leah Hoenen
Staff Writer

Cape Gazette

16 November 2007

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