Anti-wind Delmarva ads called misleading
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Cited costs not accurate, Bluewater argues
A Delmarva ad circulated throughout Delaware has raised eyebrows at the Public Service Commission and with Bluewater Wind.
The first line of the ad states: “Attention: Delaware customers of Delmarva Power. You may be forced into a 25-year energy commitment that could raise your electric bill by more than 30 percent.”
The nearly full-page ad was published in the Sunday News Journal under the large headline “Public Notice.”
On Tuesday, PSC Chairwoman Arnetta McRae cautioned Delmarva about the use of the phrase “Public Notice,” which is usually reserved for official PSC rate cases. Delmarva attorney Todd Goodman said the company would not run the newspaper ad again. On Tuesday evening, a similarly worded radio ad, starting with the phrase ‘This is a public notice’ was still running on the radio station WDEL.
“We just think we were doing a public service, alerting our customers to the dollar impact,” said Delmarva spokeswoman Bridget Shelton.
Meanwhile, Bluewater Wind took exception to the content of the ad, saying the alleged price increases were well above what a state consultant projects.
In an interview, Shelton said the 30 percent increase referred to the first year, not the life of the contract.
Bluewater spokesman Jim Lanard replied: “If Delmarva Power is using one year to reach a conclusion there’s a 30 percent increase, but in the same sentence talks about a 25-year commitment, they have intentionally misled the people of Delaware and owe a very strongly worded apology.”
Shelton responded, “Are they setting the benchmark of what’s true and what’s not?” She said customers would feel the first-year pinch much more than any 25-year average.
A state independent consultant, reporting in December, projected the increase to Delmarva residential customers would be an average of $6.46 a month over the 25-year period.
It would hurt more in the first year, the state consultant said: Ratepayers would see an increase of $13 per month in 2014. But as time goes by and fossil fuel prices get more expensive, the price difference would become less, finishing below market prices, according to the consultant.
Asked to explain Delmarva’s calculations, Shelton said that information was based on the company’s private projections. She said the company’s consultant had made the estimation earlier this year in public testimony before the Senate Energy and Transit Committee.
The committee’s report says Delmarva projects an average monthly increase of $13.92 per month, starting with $22.23 in the first year.
Shelton had criticism for some of Bluewater’s own radio ads, which said the project will bring jobs, and will be “made in Delaware for Delaware.”
“Where are the guarantees those jobs will happen?” said Shelton, who noted Bluewater is owned by the global renewable-energy company Babcock and Brown. “It is misleading to say ‘made by Delaware,’ when in fact the wind park would be made by an Australian company,” Shelton said.
Lanard said Bluewater has pledged to use local union labor.
Delmarva has spent $132,000 on its media campaign so far. Company officials have said it will be borne by shareholders, not ratepayers.
Bluewater did not provide the amount it has spent on advertising.
The Audubon Society and citizen activists have taken out an ad criticizing Delmarva’s radio spots, claiming the price increase would be just 5 percent.
That refers to the average increase over the life of the contract, said Nick DiPasquale of the Audubon Society. He said Bluewater did not pay anything toward the ad, which will run this week.
Bluewater wants to put up 150 turbines off the coast of Rehoboth Beach to generate about a quarter of Delmarva’s electricity for 25 years. Lawmakers are considering whether to order Delmarva to sign the contact against its will.
By Aaron Nathans
The News Journal
7 May 2008
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