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Chamber of Commerce OK with wind deal

No big businesses complaining about surcharge, official says.

DOVER – The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce is satisfied with the Bluewater Wind compromise, an official there said Wednesday.

The chamber was one of the early skeptics of the Bluewater plan. Its president, James Wolfe, raised concerns about a plan to require Delmarva Power to buy the power from a wind farm off the coast of Rehoboth Beach.

In a letter to policymakers in March, Wolfe said he’d rather see Bluewater compete with other renewable electricity suppliers for Delmarva’s business.

But with a deal between Bluewater and Delmarva, the chamber and its members are satisfied, said Rich Heffron, senior vice president for government affairs for the chamber.

In an agreement signed by the two companies this week, Delmarva will buy no more than 200 megawatts of power in any given hour. That’s about half the power originally proposed.

The contract calls for all Delmarva customers in the state, including large industrial customers, to share in the added costs for the wind electricity. Wind power is generally more expensive than the standard mix of fuels, dominated by fossil fuels and nuclear power.

That means it’s likely industry in the Delmarva service territory will have to pay a premium for the wind power, even if they choose to buy their electricity from a supplier other than Delmarva. The surcharge would affect anyone who uses Delmarva’s power lines.

“There may be some large businesses that have a problem with that, but we haven’t heard from them,” Heffron said.

A surcharge assumes that wind power remains more expensive than fossil fuels and nuclear power. Bluewater spokesman Jim Lanard said, “With energy prices rising the way they are, there may not be a need” for a surcharge.

Heffron said under the old contract, small business would have paid a larger share than they should have.

“If you’re going to do it, you need to spread it out to everybody. That’s only fair,” Heffron said.

Heffron said the parties, along with negotiator Senate Majority Leader Anthony J. DeLuca, did good work in coming to an agreement. “It was a negotiated deal between two private companies, which is what we wanted to see.”

Bluewater is starting to seek businesses, utilities, governments and academic institutions that might be willing to buy additional electricity from the wind farm.

The most often mentioned is Delaware’s largest employer, the state itself. The Office of Management and Budget is considering whether to buy into the project, its director, Jennifer Davis, said earlier this month. On Wednesday, Bert Scoglietti, director of policy and external affairs for that agency, said the mechanics for buying the wind power are unclear, since the state has contracts with electric suppliers that continue for two more years.

Locally based businesses, including DuPont Co. and AstraZeneca, are evaluating whether Bluewater’s power might fit into their plans.

“We’re always interested in alternative energy sources. It’s too early to say if and how we’ll engage with Bluewater,” said Laura Woodin, spokeswoman for AstraZeneca.


The News Journal

June 26, 2008

Contact Aaron Nathans at 324-2786 or anathans@delawareonline.com.