They ran tight on time, but the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on Wednesday, March 12, approved a resolution that could get the ball rolling again for Bluewater Wind’s stalled wind farm project.
Facing lawmaker hesitation, Russ Larson, state controller general, could not vote to approve the project contract, which has been on the table since Dec. 19. Following that indecision, legislators came together and produced House Concurrent Resolution 38, which would direct Larson to turn in a yes vote.
It would also ask the state’s Public Service Commission to investigate whether the cost of the project should be spread across all Delmarva Power’s customers and not just standard offer service residential customers – thereby addressing one of Delmarva Power’s concerns about fairness. Delmarva Power has maintained it is unfair to ask standard offer service customers, who use a quarter of the state’s power, to pay for the 150-turbine offshore wind park.
“I think it’s admirable that the chairman of the committee [Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View] allowed public comment,” said Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, a co-sponsor of the resolution. The public comment time pushed the vote close to the time a yes-vote member of the committee had to leave for another meeting, Schwartzkopf said.
“It was hectic, but we got it through,” he said.
All those who offered comment, except one, spoke in favor of the resolution. Bluewater Wind spokesman Jim Lanard said his company is deeply appreciative of the turnout in favor of its project and that the public support is an inspiration for Bluewater to continue to pursue the project.
“All the speakers supported wind, except Gary Stockbridge [president of Delmarva Power], who supports wind power, just not what we were doing,” Schwartzkopf said. Stockbridge says his company can secure wind power for its customers at half the cost of Bluewater’s proposal by buying electricity produced at onshore wind farms.
Jeremy Firestone, University of Delaware professor, testified that Delmarva Power’s claims that the Bluewater project will be a heavy burden to customers are not accurate. Consultants calculated the Bluewater project would have a $6.50 rate impact above market cost, said Firestone. However, the consultant used data predicting that natural gas prices will fall 25 percent between now and 2014, when Bluewater’s project should be online. The source of that data – the federal Energy Information Agency – has been historically wrong in its predictions that fossil fuel prices will fall, said Firestone.
“It’s been our mission since the contract was tabled by the four state agencies to work with the legislature to address and resolve their concerns. This is an indication that we’re making some important headway and we will continue to be responsive to all the concerns of the Legislature,” said Lanard.
Another resolution regarding the wind farm also cleared the committee. House Concurrent Resolution 40, sponsored by Hocker, would have the cost of the project spread across all electricity rate users in the state.
“Delmarva Power cannot support House Concurrent Resolution 38 because it unfairly singles out Delmarva Power customers only for both the benefits and the significant cost of this project, which we believe all of Delaware should support.
“We do support House Concurrent Resolution 40 because it would fairly spread the costs and benefits to everyone in the state and would significantly reduce the costs any single customer would pay,” said Delmarva Power spokesman Bill Yingling.
Schwartzkopf said he hopes the House will consider Resolution 38 before the legislature goes on its spring break Friday, March 21.
Schwartzkopf, Rep. Joe Booth, R-Georgetown, and Sens. George Bunting, D-Bethany Beach and Gary Simpson, R-Milford, were co-sponsors of Resolution 38.
By Leah Hoenen
Cape Gazette staff
17 March 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding