February 24, 2012

Wind farm supporters try to ease industry’s cost concerns

by Margie Hyslop, Staff Writer, www.gazette.net 24 February 2012

Three amendments to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind farm legislation were circulating Thursday in an effort to allay industry concerns about the cost of wind-generated electricity.

One amendment would require the Public Service Commission, in evaluating whether an offshore wind project should be approved, to use the same cost standard for calculating the effect on residential and nonresidential customers, thus ensuring costs are not disproportionately shifted to industry.

Another would allow electricity suppliers to pay an alternative compliance fee of 0.1 cent for each kilowatt hour they fall short of requirements to buy offshore wind renewable energy credits (ORECs).

The third amendment would require the PSC to have open hearings to evaluate any proposed offshore wind electricity project “promptly” after an application is received.

While the provisions were enough to win support of a coalition of large industrial electricity users, members of the House Economic Matters Committee at a hearing Thursday had several more concerns for O’Malley to address.

The $2-per-month touted as a cap for the highest projected increase the PSC would allow an “average” residential user to pay is misleading because it is based on 1,000-kwh use when the monthly average is actually 1,300 kwh, Del. Sally Y. Jameson said.

Jameson (D-Dist. 28) of Bryantown reminded O’Malley she is concerned the turbines off the Atlantic Coast might cause operational changes or job losses at Patuxent Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland.

O’Malley told Jameson he has talked with the new commander at the air station, and the station’s primary concern is about land-based wind conflicts with ranges that extend over parts of the Eastern Shore.

Jameson and others said they were concerned the cost could be higher for low-income households because they are less able to make improvements that make homes more energy efficient.

O’Malley said that, during the longer term, using offshore wind energy “will be of greater benefit to families with limited means.”

Advocates tout the potential for clean energy to reduce asthma and heart attacks.

Maryland Energy Administration Director Malcolm Woolf said consumers could offset the costs of offshore wind by installing a few compact fluorescent light bulbs and lowering their water heater temperature to 120 degrees.

And a wind farm off Maryland’s coast could cut some of the roughly $4 per month that Maryland households pay in congestion charges to transmit electricity from the West, farther from high demand areas, administration officials said.

Further, the proposal would put cost-containment measures on offshore wind that never were placed on electric plants already operating in state, said Del. Tom Hucker (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring, who is a lead sponsor of the bill.

Still, poultry growers could be hit hard by higher rates, Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-Dist. 37B) of Newcomb told O’Malley.

“I’d like to meet with farmers and try to get them off the grid,” given the land resources they have, O’Malley told her.

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/02/24/wind-farm-supporters-try-to-ease-industrys-cost-concerns/