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Carcieri, others put pressure on PUC to OK wind-farm pact

Governor Carcieri and the state's legislative leaders put more pressure Monday on the state's Public Utilities Commission to approve a power-purchase agreement to pave the way for a $205-million wind farm to serve Block Island ...The commission remains committed to announcing a decision on Aug. 11, just within the deadline mandated by the General Assembly.

WARWICK - Governor Carcieri and the state's legislative leaders put more pressure Monday on the state's Public Utilities Commission to approve a power-purchase agreement to pave the way for a $205-million wind farm to serve Block Island, just as the PUC began hearing a final week of evidence and a battery of lawyers representing those opposed to the wind farm.

The commission remains committed to announcing a decision on Aug. 11, just within the deadline mandated by the General Assembly when it enacted legislation in the last session sending the case back to the PUC. The legislature set such strict terms that some say the PUC will have no choice but to approve.

But commissioners made comments Monday that suggested approval of a power-purchase agreement between Deepwater Wind, the developer, and National Grid, the utility that distributes electricity in Rhode Island, remains an open question.

Chairman Elia Germani said he didn't know how reliable Deepwater's cost estimates were because it didn't employ any marine experts or construction experts. He called Deepwater a "shell company."

Deepwater chief executive officer William M. Moore strongly disagreed. He said the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

WARWICK - Governor Carcieri and the state's legislative leaders put more pressure Monday on the state's Public Utilities Commission to approve a power-purchase agreement to pave the way for a $205-million wind farm to serve Block Island, just as the PUC began hearing a final week of evidence and a battery of lawyers representing those opposed to the wind farm.

The commission remains committed to announcing a decision on Aug. 11, just within the deadline mandated by the General Assembly when it enacted legislation in the last session sending the case back to the PUC. The legislature set such strict terms that some say the PUC will have no choice but to approve.

But commissioners made comments Monday that suggested approval of a power-purchase agreement between Deepwater Wind, the developer, and National Grid, the utility that distributes electricity in Rhode Island, remains an open question.

Chairman Elia Germani said he didn't know how reliable Deepwater's cost estimates were because it didn't employ any marine experts or construction experts. He called Deepwater a "shell company."

Deepwater chief executive officer William M. Moore strongly disagreed. He said the company has hired a team of marine construction experts from Europe.

"It's not a shell company," he said. "We're the most experienced developers in the United States."

The PUC spent Monday allowing lawyers to cross-examine people who had appeared earlier as witnesses for Deepwater. However the PUC rules, the losing side will no doubt appeal to the state Supreme Court, as the law provides.

Last spring, the PUC rejected a power-purchase agreement between Deepwater and National Grid. It ruled that the starting price, 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, was too high when compared with the 9.5 cents per kilowatt-hour that the utility now pays for electricity generated by natural gas-fired power plants.

Carcieri and legislative leaders worked together on legislation that sent the case back to the PUC with new guidelines and a short timeline for review.

Carcieri, along with House Speaker Gordon D. Fox and Senate President M. Teresa Pavia Weed, told the PUC in a letter mailed Friday that timely approval of the agreement would signal that Rhode Island is ready to lead the way in the emerging offshore-wind industry. They publicized the letter Monday.

Despite the unified political support, the project has attracted a surprisingly diverse set of opponents.

Lawyers for the Conservation Law Foundation, island residents, the attorney general's office, two manufacturing firms, the Ocean State Policy Research Institute and a Canadian power company have all raised objections over the recent law passed for Deepwater, the proposed price of the electricity and other issues.

The proposed agreement between National Grid and Deepwater sets 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour as the highest possible price, but pledges that any cost savings in construction would be passed on to ratepayers.

That became a big sticking point in Monday's hearings, because critics said Deepwater has lowered its estimated construction costs from $220 million to $205 million without offering to pass those savings on to consumers.

Moore insisted there won't be any savings until the wind farm is built. Until then, he said, people are just arguing over estimates.

Moore also disagreed with attorney Michael McElroy, representing Toray Plastics and Polytop Corporation, when McElroy said that previous witnesses had said the cost of electricity from the wind farm would be $390 million above market prices, while the economic benefits were estimated to be just $129 million.

Moore said those figures did not represent an "apples-to-apples" comparison.

"I can see you're not a banker," joked Moore.

"Thank you for that," said McElroy. "I don't want to be a banker. I like being a lawyer."

Details of the case can be found at www.ripuc.org.


Source: http://www.projo.com/news/c...

AUG 3 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/27539-carcieri-others-put-pressure-on-puc-to-ok-wind-farm-pact
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