PROVIDENCE – National Grid is set to negotiate a contract for another batch of renewable energy for Rhode Island, but instead of lauding the move, the state energy office is saying that the selection falls short.
Few details about the decision have been made public because talks are continuing, but the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources says that National Grid chose only one project and that it does not come close to the 400-megawatt capacity in the request for proposals for new renewable energy that was issued last September.
“Today, the Office of Energy Resources was disappointed to learn that National Grid made a conditional selection of just one project for a small portion of the affordable renewable energy that came forward as part of the 400-megawatt procurement,” the energy office said in a statement Friday. “In doing so, the utility has left affordable, clean energy resources and millions of dollars in potential cost savings for local consumers on the table.”
National Grid responded that it is committed to increasing the supply of renewable energy for Rhode Island but that it believes that it’s wiser to ramp up procurements over time as prices come down.
“We disagree with the notion that customer savings were left on the table,” Terry Sobolewski, president of National Grid Rhode Island, said in a statement. “In fact, future costs to our customers were the exact reason we didn’t make any additional selections at this time. Historical trends and other information we have to look at suggests prices for clean energy are going to continue to decline.”
Under the terms of the RFP, National Grid has until Sept. 10 to negotiate and execute a contract to buy power from the project it selected. The contract wouldn’t be made public until it’s submitted to the state Public Utilities Commission for approval on Oct. 12.
The RFP was issued as part of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s push to increase the supply of power from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to 1,000 megawatts by 2020. That number currently stands at 371 megawatts, up from about 100 megawatts when the governor announced the goal in 2016, according to the state energy office.
The supply includes 30 megawatts from the Block Island Wind Farm, the test project built by Deepwater Wind that in 2016 became the first, and so far only, offshore wind farm in the United States. Deepwater is selling power from the wind farm to Rhode Island electric users through a contract with National Grid.
Another 400 megawatts from an offshore wind farm proposed by Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind – the Danish company that acquired Deepwater last fall – is in the pipeline. Under a 20-year contract released in February, National Grid would pay Orsted 9.8 cents per kilowatt hour for power from the wind farm that would be built in Rhode Island Sound.
If the full capacity of the RFP had been reached, it would have procured more than enough energy to reach Raimondo’s goal. Eleven companies responded to the request with 41 bids. They included additional offshore wind projects from Orsted and its rival Vineyard Wind, as well as land-based wind farms and solar farms in other parts of New England.
The state energy office says there is still time to meet the governor’s goal.
“With a year and a half left and many projects in the pipeline, OER is confident that the state’s robust clean energy economy will deliver to meet this goal,” the office said.
National Grid agrees.
“At the end of day, the project we selected is going to help meet Governor Raimondo’s goals on schedule, if not ahead of them,” Sobolewski said.