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National Grid move changes debate

National Grid has filed a request to transfer responsibility for constructing the underwater Block Island power cable from Deepwater Wind to them. According to a filing with the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, dated March 13, Timothy Horan of National Grid submitted a transmission facilities purchase agreement allowing the company to design, construct, maintain and wholly finance the proposed cable.

Quoting from the filing, Mr. Horan provided three reasons for this takeover: “[National Grid] and its affiliates … have experience constructing submarine cables,” “by constructing the transmission facilities, the company would be better able to control costs” and “… the company is better able to access and manage the project risk.”

Deepwater Resistance had previously suggested that the Block Island Wind Farm proposal be split into these two components. We have publicly stated on several occasions the same justifications as put forth by National Grid.

If this filing needs any further justification, the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers should consider that the residents of Narragansett are now confronted with Deepwater Wind’s fourth proposed cable path, described in its environmental Report from October. None of these proposed alignments has been satisfactory. We now know why: Deepwater Wind has acknowledged they lack the engineering expertise.

We are pleased that one of the conditions National Grid has stipulated for acceptance of this agreement is that “consultations with the town of Narragansett … are satisfactory.” We expect National Grid will reach out to both affected communities at the start of its review.

This offer does little either to promote or detract from the Deepwater Wind proposal overall. For instance, it does not obligate National Grid to start building the cable until Deepwater Wind begins construction of the turbine array. It does demonstrate unequivocally the arrogance or ineptness displayed by Deepwater Wind, a private company, to sit down and talk seriously with any residents of Narragansett or New Shoreham since 2011.

We look forward to hearings before the DPUC, when we can voice our concerns. If Deepwater Wind were to be stripped of its obligation to build the cable, should not the entire question of financing the proposal be re-evaluated and a revised power purchase agreement be negotiated at a significantly lower electric rate by the state Public Utilities Commission?

Robert Shields


The author is chairman of the Deepwater Resistance Public Action Committee.