On Monday, March 20, the R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (the Division) rebuffed the Block Island Power Company’s request to socialize the cost of connecting two substations on the island. The opinion was sent in a memorandum by the Division to the Public Utilities Commission.
Docket 4688 requested that the cost of the interconnection between the new National Grid substation and BIPCo’s existing substation be spread to all of National Grid’s customers in Rhode Island, as opposed to being borne solely by BIPCo ratepayers. The docket asks that the same treatment be given to a back-up transformer that will be located on Block Island, and which will convert the energy produced by the Block Island Wind Farm down to a voltage that can be handled by the BIPCo transmission system.
In a nutshell, the Division found there was no basis to grant BIPCo a declaratory judgment. While the cost of the National Grid sea2shore transmission cable itself has already been socialized, the “disputed facilities are certain equipment, such as wooden poles, overhead conductors, a switch, a circuit breaker, and a second, back-up transformer that allows the BIPCo system to connect to the new substation… The essence of BIPCo’s position is that the Disputed Facilities should be included in the definition of ‘related facilities’ in R.I. General Laws section 39-26.1-7 entitled the ‘Town of New Shoreham Project’…NGRID’s position is that the cost of the Disputed Facilities should be recovered from BIPCo’s ratepayers.”
In the discussion section of the Division’s memorandum, it was written that: “First it is important to note that there is no legal obligation imposed or set-forth in Title 39 or any other Rhode Island General Law requiring BIPCo to interconnect to the Block Island Wind Farm or the bi-directional cable, from the National Grid’s mainland electric transmission and distribution system…The Block Island Power Company was perfectly able to continue with its business plan of generating its own electricity and distributing it to its customers.”
The memorandum, written by Jon G. Hagopian, Senior Legal Counsel for the Division, concludes that there is no support in the law for “BIPCo’s prayer for relief. BIPCo is responsible for the cost of interconnection, as their interconnection is voluntary.”
The Division’s memorandum is not binding, but as Interim BIPCo President Jeffery Wright told The Times, it is likely that the PUC will go along with it. Wright also said that the cost of the interconnection is currently estimated at $270,000, but he hopes the final cost will be less.
BIPCo has until March 28 to file its reply comments.
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