Library filed under Energy Policy from Delaware
The wind farm scandal is getting so serious that it's time for Gov. Minner to step in and do what Delaware leaders have always done: Appoint a task force. Make it a deconfusion task force. The governor should task a blue-ribbon panel of first-rate clarifiers to sort through the hyperbole, palaver, double talk, embellishments, dissembling and plain old silliness that have surrounded the debate as to whether the state should have a wind turbine farm in the ocean off Rehoboth Beach. In other words, a panel should find out what in the world is going on ...Lost in this confusion is a simple question: Is the Bluewater bid a good deal or a bad deal for Delaware? Pick one.
Senate Democratic caucus members discussed the document secretly last week and then called for revisions. But leaked copies circulated throughout the weekend as debate intensified over a stalled proposal that would make Delmarva Power sign a 25-year "must-take" electricity purchase contract with Bluewater Wind LLC. "After a year and a half of proceedings, many factual uncertainties remain and key issues have not been explored to the depth that is warranted when making a $5.6 billion, 25-year commitment," the report said. ...The draft report is based on a series of hearings in February and March to examine Bluewater's proposal, the PSC process and alternative energy options.
The House solidly approved a resolution Thursday demanding approval of a 150-turbine offshore wind park east of Rehoboth Beach. The 25-11 vote was the clearest legislative endorsement so far of the $1.5 billion construction project and came as project supporters lobbied to head off a damaging report that is soon to be released by a Senate committee. ..."I think to send a message forcing a for-profit company, when you're in a time of deregulation [to sign a contract] is completely the wrong thing to do," said Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, who voted against the bill. He warned that some customers would abandon Delmarva, raising the costs of the wind farm for remaining residents.
Delaware should kill a 25-year purchase proposal for offshore wind energy, according to a draft report prepared for a legislative committee reviewing the state's energy supply. ... The draft -- written by committee Chairman Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North -- says that Bluewater Wind's offshore energy venture in Delaware could be jump-started with public aid. However, if approved as is, the report could be the death knell for a state-mandated offshore wind contract between Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power. "Probably the report will determine what will be done" on the wind vote in the Senate, said Senate President Pro Tem Thurman Adams Jr., D-Bridgeville.
The House solidly approved a resolution today demanding approval of a 150 turbine offshore wind park east of Rehoboth Beach, while project supporters worked to head off a separate, damaging committee analysis. The 25-11 vote vote sent the measure to an uncertain future in the Senate, where both Democratic and Republican leaders have had more reservations about the project's cost, fairness and effect on Delmarva Power. ...The Senate may decide to give guidance a different way, but the important thing is one of two houses has given guidance to the Controller General to support the contract with Bluewater." Others were less happy. "I think to send a message forcing a for-profit company, when you're in a time of deregulation [to sign a contract] is completely the wrong thing to do," said Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, who voted against the measure. He warned that some customers would abandon Delmarva, raising the costs of the wind farm for remaining residents.
Delmarva Power says it won't release the details of its proposed land-based wind power contracts until about June 1. That's about a month before the end of the legislative session. Some House Republicans expressed frustration at Delmarva, saying the electric company promised them cost estimates by next week so they can compare them to the proposed 25-year Bluewater Wind offshore contract. The lawmakers vowed to press on with a vote on the Bluewater matter, as soon as next week.
Delaware Electric Cooperative customers could soon be buying wind power. The cooperative, and its Virginia-based supplier, announced Tuesday they were joining Delmarva Power in its quest for land-based wind power. It's unclear how much wind power the cooperative, which serves 72,000 member-customers, would purchase. Unlike Delmarva, the cooperative is not required by state law to buy renewable power. ...Land-based wind power can be competitive on price with traditional fuels once a federal production tax credit is taken into account, said Brian Yerger, a Wilmington-based alternative-energy research analyst at Jesup & Lamont Securities. But Yerger added that it costs more to transmit that wind power from afar.
They ran tight on time, but the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on Wednesday, March 12, approved a resolution that could get the ball rolling again for Bluewater Wind's stalled wind farm project. ...Another resolution regarding the wind farm also cleared the committee. House Concurrent Resolution 40, sponsored by Hocker, would have the cost of the project spread across all electricity rate users in the state. "Delmarva Power cannot support House Concurrent Resolution 38 because it unfairly singles out Delmarva Power customers only for both the benefits and the significant cost of this project, which we believe all of Delaware should support. "We do support House Concurrent Resolution 40 ..."
Whirling debate over a proposed offshore wind farm helped to chop up hopes Monday for broad agreement on Delaware's version of a multistate greenhouse gas control plan. Although rarely mentioned directly, the push for wind turbines off Delaware's coast plainly figured in disputes over how to invest an estimated $53 million to $209 million in proceeds by 2014 from the sale of power plant "allowances" for carbon dioxide emissions. Delaware agreed in 2005 to join the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program to cap and then reduce the amount of heat-trapping pollution released by large electricity generators across the Northeast.
Legislation to force the state to approve a proposed offshore wind farm to generate electricity was sent to the full House late Wednesday, after a committee hearing dominated by supporters of a 150-turbine project east of Rehoboth Beach. But the Energy and Natural Resources Committee also approved a measure calling for another bill that would spread Bluewater Wind's electricity costs beyond Delmarva Power's customers to all state electricity customers, a provision many believe would kill Bluewater's project. Prospects for quick action on either measure, House Concurrent Resolution 38 or HCR 4, was unclear. A Senate committee has been holding its own hearings on costs and alternatives to Bluewater's project since February, with a report expected in April.
The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to release House Concurrent Resolutions 38 & 40 to the full House for a vote. Last December Controller Russ Larson, who represents the General Assembly, lead the vote to table a decision on the proposed wind farm project that would sit 11.5 miles off the coast of Rehoboth Beach. HCR 38, if passed by the full House, would direct Larson to approve the project on their behalf. HCR 40 would spread the $1.6 billion cost of the wind farm to all Delaware energy users
A physics argument broke out at Friday's hearing on the Bluewater Wind contract. When a wind farm powers up, which plants power down? Bluewater Wind officials said Friday that in the congested Delmarva Peninsula, it will be area fossil-fuel plants. Area residents will realize a direct environmental and health benefit, they said. But Delmarva Power officials said the benefits will be diluted throughout the 13-state PJM electrical grid, and would have its biggest impact on oil-burning plants, not generators that use the notoriously dirty-burning coal. ...Citing a PJM Interconnection official who spoke at the hearings, they contended environmental benefits of an offshore wind farm would be spread throughout the grid. It wouldn't be coal that would go first, but more-expensive fossil fuels such as oil, said company spokesman Bill Yingling.
New Jersey's largest power supplier is competing with Bluewater Wind and a group of commercial fishing companies for the right to build a wind farm off the coast of the Garden State. PSEG announced this week that its renewable generation division, and a partner company, Winergy Power Holdings, has bid to build a 96-turbine wind farm off the coast of Cape May and Atlantic counties. The company said it would be 16 miles offshore. ...The results of the bidding competition could have implications for the proposed wind farm off the Delaware coast. Bluewater proposed building a regional hub for offshore wind turbine construction in Delaware, but if a different company wins the New Jersey bidding, the hub may lose out on that business.
Fifty million dollars to $70 million per year for 25 years --- well over a billion dollars -- this is what is at stake in this critical issue for our customers, and unfortunately only our customers. Much has been said lately about the need to move toward renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, and how best to do so. Our obligation to our customers is clear, and over the past few years I have heard it repeatedly up and down the Peninsula: We need to increase our use of renewable energy and keep the rates low. ...
A House Democratic appeal for faster action on a proposed $1.6 billion offshore wind farm got little traction Thursday, with House Republicans terming any concrete action unlikely before springtime. "I think some of them are waiting until Harris McDowell has finished up his hearings" in March, said House Speaker Terry R. Spence, R-Stratford. Senate Energy & Transit Committee Chairman Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North, began a series of hearings on Bluewater Wind LLC's proposed 150-turbine wind project east of Rehoboth Beach this month, with a report due in early April. ...Estimates say the project may initially add $13 to $14 per month to Delmarva's standard-offer customer bills, but could decline to break even with current rates after 2025 if natural gas prices increase significantly. Spreading the cost to other Delmarva or state electricity customers could lower rate impacts to $7 extra monthly in early years.
A stalled plan for a $1.6 billion offshore wind farm drew more than 100 people to a Senate hearing in Dover on Thursday, with some branding the process a brazen effort to derail the venture and others dismissing wind turbines as a costly mistake. The comments came during the first of five public hearings on Bluewater Wind LLC's proposal that are scheduled through early March by Senate Energy and Transit Committee Chairman Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North. ...University of Delaware engineering professor Charles Boncelet said in contrast that offshore wind turbines would still require conventional fuel backup and would drive up consumer costs. A report issued last year estimated that the project could increase Delmarva Power's "standard offer" customer rates by $14 a month at first and more than $6 per month over the long term. Costs could be lower if spread to other Delmarva and Delaware customers.
A stalled plan for a $1.6 billion offshore wind farm drew more than 100 people to a Senate hearing in Dover on Thursday, with some branding the process a brazen effort to derail the venture and others dismissing wind turbines as a costly mistake. ...University of Delaware engineering professor Charles Boncelet said in contrast that offshore wind turbines would still require conventional fuel backup and would drive up consumer costs. A report issued last year estimated that the project could increase Delmarva Power's "standard offer" customer rates by $14 a month at first and more than $6 per month over the long term. Costs could be lower if spread to other Delmarva and Delaware customers. "Wind power does not help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, does not reduce our need to build conventional power plants, does not reduce pollution and is more expensive than other choices," Boncelet said.
A controversial set of Senate hearings begins tonight in Dover probing whether other forms of green energy are cheaper than the Bluewater Wind project. But critics say the organizer, Sen. Harris McDowell III, D-Wilmington, is trying to change the subject after Bluewater was the only renewable energy provider to respond to a state request for proposals last year. McDowell's Senate Energy and Transit Committee will begin the first of five hearings on renewable energy options tonight at 6:30 in Legislative Hall. Representatives of environmental groups were invited and are expected to speak. ...Sen. Robert Venables, D-Laurel, speaking during vacation in Florida, said he plans to send an assistant to tonight's hearing. He said when Bluewater dropped its price, he wondered whether "there was a lot of money that was stuck on that shouldn't have been stuck on to start with." "I don't think he's trying to slow it down," Venables said of McDowell. "We consider him more up on these energy issues than anyone else. He's considered one of the experts across the country."
Bluewater Wind's parent company has pledged to make Delaware the hub of its mid-Atlantic offshore operations if the state approves a long-term wind electricity contract with Delmarva Power. ...Sen. Charles Copeland, R-West Farms, a skeptic of the wind contract, said it was a positive development for a state losing its manufacturing jobs, and a wise move for Bluewater. Copeland wondered whether Babcock would have decided to make Delaware its center of offshore operations anyway, without the pledge, "but it does solidify it some. ...It's always good during an election year when politicians actually do what the voter is requesting of them," Copeland said. But he said the announcement was short on specifics, and still doesn't make the project any more affordable for low-income Delaware ratepayers.
A Senate committee is set to start hearings next month on whether Delaware can do better than the Bluewater Wind offshore wind power project. Bluewater supporters called the hearings a delay tactic. ...McDowell said the purpose of the meetings were "informational." "These hearings are going to be fair, above board and impartial," McDowell said. "We'll be calling on all parties interested in green energy, including Bluewater Wind, to discuss their ideas." ...Meanwhile, a University of Delaware professor has filed a complaint seeking to halt Delmarva's effort to seek land-based wind power resources. ...Firestone, assistant professor of marine policy at the University of Delaware, said Delmarva should have to wait until after the Bluewater matter is settled before seeking wind power resources for that time period. Firestone said Delmarva President Gary Stockbridge is seeking the on-shore resources as a way to attack the state-mandated process that led to the Bluewater contract.