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Markell: Examine true costs of energy

Gov. Jack Markell wants to end a decades-long practice of viewing energy costs exclusively in terms of dollars and cents, and start considering the long-range impact on public health and the environment. As part of the broader vision, Markell says he'll keep a close eye on Delmarva Power's long-range energy plan, a state required roadmap that is coming before the Public Service Commission. The 10-year plan will help map how the utility buys electricity, and whether it will come from sources near or far.

Governor wants state to consider impact on environment, health

Gov. Jack Markell wants to end a decades-long practice of viewing energy costs exclusively in terms of dollars and cents, and start considering the long-range impact on public health and the environment.

As part of the broader vision, Markell says he'll keep a close eye on Delmarva Power's long-range energy plan, a state required roadmap that is coming before the Public Service Commission. The 10-year plan will help map how the utility buys electricity, and whether it will come from sources near or far.

Markell said Tuesday he wants the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to be a formal intervenor in the review process. That will give environmental officials a greater platform from which to comment on the state's most pressing energy issues.

Those topics include a proposal to put a new natural gas-fired plant in Sussex County. The fuel pollutes less than coal, but is more expensive and the PSC has said a new natural gas plant could help ensure reliability.

But Delmarva has resisted building that plant into its electricity purchase plan, saying it could import what it needs over transmission lines and... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Governor wants state to consider impact on environment, health

Gov. Jack Markell wants to end a decades-long practice of viewing energy costs exclusively in terms of dollars and cents, and start considering the long-range impact on public health and the environment.

As part of the broader vision, Markell says he'll keep a close eye on Delmarva Power's long-range energy plan, a state required roadmap that is coming before the Public Service Commission. The 10-year plan will help map how the utility buys electricity, and whether it will come from sources near or far.

Markell said Tuesday he wants the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to be a formal intervenor in the review process. That will give environmental officials a greater platform from which to comment on the state's most pressing energy issues.

Those topics include a proposal to put a new natural gas-fired plant in Sussex County. The fuel pollutes less than coal, but is more expensive and the PSC has said a new natural gas plant could help ensure reliability.

But Delmarva has resisted building that plant into its electricity purchase plan, saying it could import what it needs over transmission lines and meet demand through better conservation.

Delmarva, a subsidiary of Pepco Holding Inc., now relies heavily on fossil fuel-fired power transmitted from afar. But current lines are congested on high-demand days, like when air conditioners are at full blast.

Pepco Holdings is planning to put up a $1.425 billion, high-voltage power line through to transmit more power from coal-rich Appalachia.

But state environmental officials have concerns that reliance in a long-term plan on out-of-state generation by coal-fired plants spews toxins into the air that eventually move east and can end up in the lungs of Delaweareans.

The energy plan discussions will take a broader look at the cost of alternative power, and whether Delmarva needs to go beyond current state requirements for having cleanly generated power in its portfolio.

"To the extent we could push that issue in a creative way, I think that's a good thing," said David Small, acting DNREC secretary.

Clean sources include wind farms like the offshore farm Bluewater "We must look at not only how much power will cost per month, but also how much more we will have to pay in the long run to clean up pollution or treat health problems caused by toxins in the air, land or water," Small said.

It's hard to put a dollar figure on such costs, but his agency will work to quantify the effects in some way, Small said. "It's pretty clear the governor wants to take a broad view of this. It's absolutely the right perspective."

Delmarva has been through long-term planning efforts with the PSC before, most recently in the mid-1990s, with the goal of securing the lowest-cost power for its customers.

At the time, participants considered adding public health and environmental costs into the equation, but ultimately decided it was impossible to quantify those effects in a meaningful way.

That was before the urgent warnings in recent years about the impact of global warming. Certain to come up in discussions are the eight cancer clusters discovered in the state last year, as well as asthma and bronchial issues in beach areas.

Although Delmarva does not own NRG's coal-burning Indian River Power Plant, the facility is part of the PJM Interconnection grid that supplies the region, including Delaware. The plant's future is unknown, as it faces a takeover attempt from Exelon, which has said it would divest itself of NRG's power plants on the peninsula. The plant is likely to come up in discussions, including the possibility of converting it to a natural gas facility.

Nick DiPasquale of Delaware Audubon Society applauded Markell's move, pointing to the "obvious relationship between environmental impacts and energy production."

DiPasquale, a former DNREC secretary, noted that the agency will have limited influence in the outcome. DiPasquale said DNREC has no regulatory authority over the process. Its influence, he said, is in other arenas, like regulating environmentally sensitive areas, and an interstate agreement to control greenhouse gas emissions.

That said, "If I were Delmarva, I'd give due consideration to comments of an agency under the control of the governor," DiPasquale said.

The 10-year plan is known as the Integrated Resource Plan, and is required to be updated by Delmarva every two years through 2016. Delmarva was required to file the plan under a 2006 state law, the same piece of legislation that directed the state to find new, in-state sources of electricity. That resulted in the contract with Bluewater Wind.

Bruce Burcat, executive director of the PSC, said he welcomed DNREC's participation. The commission had envisioned such a role for the agency, he said.

"The governor's announcement shows the importance of having DNREC at the table to provide its specialized expertise to the Commission through the IRP process," Burcat said.

DNREC is expected to file a formal motion this week to become an intervenor.

Delmarva President Gary Stockbridge welcomed DNREC's involvement in a written statement.

"The energy planning process of the state is a critical one, and one in which all stakeholders should be involved," Stockbridge said. "Our objective is to develop the best all-around plan for the citizens of Delaware whom we serve, and an inclusive planning process will get us to that end result."

Delmarva recently signed contracts with Bluewater and two land-based wind farm operators to fulfill its state requirement for renewable power purchases. The utility is required to make 20 percent of its portfolio come from renewable sources by 2019.

It got help from the state: Delmarva is receiving more than triple credit toward those requirements for buying renewable energy credits from the Bluewater Wind project.


Source: http://www.delawareonline.c...

MAR 4 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19342-markell-examine-true-costs-of-energy
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