The agency that regulates the state’s coastline voted unanimously last night to delay a decision to establish a one-year moratorium on all alternative energy projects after spending three hours hearing from an expert on ocean energy, asking questions about future planning and listening to questions posed by potential developers.
Grover Fugate, executive director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council who proposed the one-year ban on considering offshore energy proposals, said the council needs time to zone state waters in order to find sites that would be appropriate for projects such as wind farms.
The agency will not be ready to permit projects for at least two more years, according to timelines developed by the CRMC and the University of Rhode Island, which will likely be a partner that will collect data on issues from navigational routes and commercial fishing areas to develop a comprehensive offshore use plan.
The purpose of the moratorium, Fugate said, would be to focus CRMC’s attention on completing the plan and avoid any distraction from incoming proposals.
If the state has its guidelines for applicants in place, he said, it will also prevent inappropriate proposals that can waste time or create negative public opinion about renewable energy development.
“One stupid application can cause a lot of problems,” Fugate said.
Some at last night’s meeting disagreed with the recommendation for a moratorium.
Andrew Dzykewicz, the governor’s energy adviser, said he was worried that the moratorium would scare away investors and result in delays and increased costs.
“That [the moratorium] is not a good message to be sending,” he said. “We need to be careful.”
The governor wants Rhode Island to generate 15 percent of its electricity from renewable sources.
Lawmakers have also been pushing to move the state to renewable energy.
Last week, four bills promoting renewable sources were introduced by the Senate President Joseph Montalbano. A bill that may have the most significant long-term impact would require the state’s largest energy provider, National Grid, to enter into contracts with renewable energy providers for a “commercially reasonable” amount of time.
Two potential wind farm investors said they supported the CRMC’s plan to zone offshore waters.
Bill Fischer, who represents New York-based Allco Renewable Energy, aired two concerns to the council.
His company has already submitted an application to build wind turbines in Rhode Island waters and supports the development of a siting plan by the CRMC, but he wanted to make sure the agency’s plans would not be at odds with Allco’s proposal.
He asked that the proposed plan not rule out sites based on cost and that the placement of meteorological towers to gather wind speed data only be placed where wind farms can be built, an issue that is still being decided.
“We are only going for certainty,” Fischer said. “We need the rules.”
The CRMC meets again on March 25.
By Natalie Garcia
Journal Environment Writer
12 March 2008
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