The Rhode Island Economic Policy Council is considering an endorsement of a new power authority, proposed by Governor Carcieri, that is designed to speed the development of alternative energy projects.
Support from the policy council, an influential advisory group made up of leading business and political figures, could provide a significant boost for the proposal. Last year, a House committee stripped the plan from a broader energy bill, after it had won support in the Senate.
The policy council staff referred to Carcieri’s plan in a draft of 25 “strategic projects” that will be debated by board members at their quarterly meeting tomorrow.
The reference to the power authority appears under the heading “Make Rhode Island a leader in energy demand management and alternative supply development.” Policy council staff distributed the draft to board members earlier this week.
Christopher L. Bergstrom, the policy council’s executive director, said the draft reflects increasing interest among board members in rising energy costs and the potential impact on the state’s economy.
“At the last policy council meeting, the council asked the staff to include an energy element in the strategy,” Bergstrom said. “We have done that.”
The 25 projects are designed to advance the council’s top 10 priorities for the next decade, announced last September. They include resolving issues of water scarcity, improving public transportation and strengthening adult education.
The policy council’s main priority is to create a work force to staff innovative companies, Bergstrom said yesterday.
“We have no choice but to focus on innovation,” the September vision statement says. “There’s no other way for us to achieve competitive advantage. We don’t have low-cost land, low-cost labor, low-cost energy, low taxes, abundant natural resources, a great climate or a particularly favorable location on the global logistics system.”
Although the power authority is not among the policy council’s top issues for this year, supporters say an endorsement could still improve the plan’s prospects at the General Assembly.
Yesterday, state Sen. Dennis L. Algiere, R-Westerly, said he was working with Senate President Joseph A. Montalbano on legislation similar to the bill he filed last year to create a power authority. That legislation would have created an independent public agency empowered to issue bonds to finance renewable energy projects, such as Carcieri’s proposal to establish wind farms capable of generating 15 percent of the state’s electricity usage.
Carcieri began pushing the issue two years ago, when he created the Office of Energy Resources and named Andrew Dzykewicz as its director.
Since then, one company has proposed a project to harness wave energy, and the state has asked the University of Rhode Island to research offshore energy projects and help set up regulations to guide future developments.
“Governor Carcieri is in favor of a power authority to work as a focal point for the state’s renewable energy efforts. He thinks a power authority could have a role in areas such as permitting renewable energy facilities such as wind turbines,” Carcieri’s spokesman, Jeff Neal, said yesterday. “With that in mind, the endorsement of the economic policy council would make a very positive difference in the governor’s push to make a power authority and our renewable energy agenda a reality.”
Carcieri sits on the council board, along with Providence Mayor David N. Cicilline, Paul J. Choquette Jr., the chairman of Gilbane Inc. and Kimball Hall, a vice president at Amgen, among others.
By Benjamin N. Gedan
Journal Staff Writer
10 January 2008
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