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'Green' energy projects get support with proposed renewable power bill

Senate leaders banded for the second time in a week to unveil bipartisan legislation, this time aimed at increasing the development and use of renewable energy throughout the state. ...the bill could fix a problem holding back green energy projects here: a lack of big buyers. Before building an offshore wind farm, for example, developers must convince potential investors that a major customer with money will buy the power over a long period. Lawmakers want National Grid, the state's dominant electricity distributor, to fill the role. The company supports the bill. ...The bill would excuse National Grid from signing contracts it considers "commercially unreasonable," a term that lawmakers defined only vaguely. Ryan said he could not say what contracts National Grid might reject without seeing a specific developer proposal.

Senate leaders banded for the second time in a week to unveil bipartisan legislation, this time aimed at increasing the development and use of renewable energy throughout the state. Lawmakers say that bill package would "create jobs, save Rhode Islanders money, and help the environment, while reducing dependence on foreign oil."

Senate President Joseph A. Montalbano, D-Pawtucket, North Providence, Lincoln, Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Paiva Weed, D- Newport, Jamestown and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere, R-Westerly, Charlestown announced the specifics of their four-bill legislative package "intended to increase private investment in the development of alternative energy sources."

And the state's major power company would buy renewable energy for a decade at a time under the multi-bill legislation.

"It's a good start for Rhode Island," Algiere said. "This is an opportunity for us to lead by example."

Environmental advocates say the bill could fix a problem holding back green energy projects here: a lack of big buyers. Before building an offshore wind farm, for example, developers must convince potential investors that a major customer with money... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Senate leaders banded for the second time in a week to unveil bipartisan legislation, this time aimed at increasing the development and use of renewable energy throughout the state. Lawmakers say that bill package would "create jobs, save Rhode Islanders money, and help the environment, while reducing dependence on foreign oil."

Senate President Joseph A. Montalbano, D-Pawtucket, North Providence, Lincoln, Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Paiva Weed, D- Newport, Jamestown and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere, R-Westerly, Charlestown announced the specifics of their four-bill legislative package "intended to increase private investment in the development of alternative energy sources."

And the state's major power company would buy renewable energy for a decade at a time under the multi-bill legislation.

"It's a good start for Rhode Island," Algiere said. "This is an opportunity for us to lead by example."

Environmental advocates say the bill could fix a problem holding back green energy projects here: a lack of big buyers. Before building an offshore wind farm, for example, developers must convince potential investors that a major customer with money will buy the power over a long period.

Lawmakers want National Grid, the state's dominant electricity distributor, to fill the role. The company supports the bill.

"It ensures private developers that there is a market for their product prior to them making a substantial investment," Montalbano said at a news conference.

New Englanders face some of the most expensive electricity bills in the country, largely because the region is heavily dependent on expensive natural gas.

But wind ripples across Rhode Island's coastline.

Last fall, a New York-based company submitted the first proposal for a major wind farm off the Rhode Island coast, including Westerly and Watch Hill. Allco Renewable Energy Group wants to build between 235 and 338 wind turbines in state waters off Block Island.

Republican Gov. Don Carcieri and Democratic lawmakers both say wind turbines could lower electricity costs and reduce pollution. Carcieri has said he wants to build enough wind turbines by 2011 to meet 15 percent of Rhode Island's electricity needs. None have been built so far, and Carcieri's energy adviser said the timetable will be difficult, if not impossible, to meet. Carcieri had not seen the bills Thursday and could not immediately comment, his spokesman said.

"Our economy and environment are interrelated and co-dependent," Algiere said. "This is a unique opportunity for the state to look at renewable energy projects and addresses, ultimately, costs to the consumer."

National Grid has about 500,000 customers in Rhode Island. If adopted, the bill would require the company to sign enough contracts by 2013 to ensure 5 percent of the state's electricity needs will come from renewable sources.

National Grid supports the proposal after rejecting similar ideas in the past, said Michael Ryan, the power company's president of state distribution. Renewable energy projects had occasionally proved too expensive in other states, he said.

But Ryan said the market now appears more favorable and that National Grid would rather negotiate with lawmakers than have a rule imposed on them unilaterally by the state.

The bill would excuse National Grid from signing contracts it considers "commercially unreasonable," a term that lawmakers defined only vaguely. Ryan said he could not say what contracts National Grid might reject without seeing a specific developer proposal.

The package could set off a fight with Carcieri since it would move renewable energy funds used by the governor's office to a quasi-public state agency, the Economic Development Corporation.

Some of the money would be used to support small renewable energy projects built by cities and towns, such as wind turbines and solar panels. Other funds would be used to build similar projects powering state-subsidized housing.

Algiere said Westerly could benefit from the legislation.

"If the town chooses to pursue renewable energy projects, the bill would help (offset costs)," he said.

In the fall of 2007, the town created a 'Wind Zoning' ordinance, opening the door for the municipality to consider renewable energy options.


Source: http://www.thewesterlysun.c...

MAR 8 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/13731-green-energy-projects-get-support-with-proposed-renewable-power-bill
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