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Minner signs offshore wind legislation  

Additional costs go to Delmarva customers in surcharge.

DOVER – Legislation to finalize the agreement between Delmarva Power and Bluewater Wind became law Wednesday night after gaining approval from both chambers of the Legislature and a signature from the governor.
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The two companies announced the agreement Monday after more than a year of conflict between them to strike a compromise on providing renewable energy to the state by building a wind farm off the shore of Rehoboth Beach.

Senate Bill 328 was filed by Sen. Anthony J. DeLuca, D-Newark East, moments before a vote was taken by the full body. Members of the Legislature offered praise for DeLuca and others involved in mediating the agreement between the two companies.

The legislation directs the Public Service Commission to pass on any additional costs to all Delmarva ratepayers in the form of a “non-bypassable surcharge.” That means every home, business and school connected to Delmarva Power wires would have to pay, even if it buys power from another source.

It also means all Delmarva customers, including big businesses, will share in the cost. Under the previous plan, only residential customers and small businesses would have paid.

It also gives Delmarva bonus credit for meeting its state renewable energy requirements. Renewable energy credits from the offshore wind farm would count 3 1/2 times more than ordinary credits. The utility is required to make 20 percent of its portfolio come from renewable sources by 2019.

Jim Lanard, Bluewater Wind spokesman, said he was pleased to see approval of the legislation, adding the agreement was a long time in the making.

“Delaware, the First State, will be first again with the offshore wind program,” Lanard said.

Gov. Ruth Ann Minner wasted no time after passage to sign the bill, which she said was a positive step for the environment.

She said if there are any details left undone, they would be worked out in the next legislative session.

“This is something we’re all very serious about,” Minner said.

Both Minner and Lt. Gov. John Carney, who is running for the governor’s seat, sported three-pronged windmill pins in celebration of the agreement.

Carney said he saw the decision not only as positive for the environment, but also as a means to bring more jobs to Delaware. However, he did not see his involvement in the issue as a campaign effort, disagreeing that his continued dialogue and work on the issue was part of his bid for governor.

“It was about getting a win-win-win for Delaware,” Carney said. “It makes Delaware a leader in renewable energy.”

Members of both chambers were full of praises for the legislation when it was considered on the respective floors.

Sen. Karen E. Peterson, D-Stanton, has been a vocal supporter of the wind project and rolled off a list of thanks before the Senate approved the legislation.

“There were times I never thought we would get to this day,” she said.

While some spoke in favor of the legislation, they reminded fellow members that this measure should only be considered a first step in pursuing the use of renewable energy.

“I think with respect to renewables we have a long way to go,” Sen. David P. Sokola, D-Newark, said. “Our dependency on fossil fuels is harming us in many ways.”

And Sen. Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North, was determined to have clarification on the floor before passage that it would not decrease the renewable energy portfolio. When he was satisfied that the part of the legislation increasing the credit percentage was not affecting the overall energy portfolio, McDowell voted in favor of the legislation.

Delmarva will buy no more than 200 megawatts of power from Bluewater in any given hour. That’s about half of what was in the December contract.

Under the contract, Bluewater will build between 55 and 70 turbines, about 12 miles east of Rehoboth Beach. The turbines could begin spinning by 2012.

It could be the first offshore wind farm off this country’s coast. There are several in Europe.

With the agreement, Delmarva has agreed not to sue. It was quickly becoming the utility’s only recourse, as more and more lawmakers said they would vote to require Delmarva to sign the larger Bluewater contract.

Jim Black of the Clean Air Council said he was happy the agreement was moving forward.

“This is probably the best outcome we could have expected. This will avoid litigation,” Black said. That would have slowed the project down by at least a year, he said. “We’re going to have windmills out in the ocean a lot sooner because of this agreement.”

Sen. Robert L. Venables Sr., D-Laurel, has been vocal in his opposition to the wind project, saying it was too expensive for his constituents. Now, with the same energy price but a smaller buy, he said it only will cost households two or three dollars more per month. “I think it’s a good project. I’m 100 percent on board,” Venables said.

The project will be a boon for Delaware, said John Hughes, secretary of the Department Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

“There’s every reason, environmental and economic, to wish Bluewater Wind success. They offer us impeccable environmental credentials in a world environmental credentials are going to be needed. We can go from worst to first with Bluewater’s help,” Hughes said.

He said his department stood ready to begin the “rigorous diligence of our permitting system.”

People on all sides of the debate offered praise for DeLuca.

“I think Senator DeLuca did a great job. I think he deserves a lot of credit. Not a lot of people wanted to take this on, but he did,” said Rich Heffron of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.

Lisa Pertzoff of the League of Women Voters said although she supported the earlier proposed contract, with a larger Delmarva electricity buy from Bluewater, she understood the political reality.

“Half a loaf is better than none,” she said.

By AARON NATHANS and GINGER GIBSON

The News Journal

June 26, 2008

Contact Aaron Nathans at 324-2786 or anathans@delawareonline.com.
Contact Ginger Gibson at 678-4274 or gigibson@delawareonline.com.

delawareonline.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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