Rhode Island Governor, Attorney General On Opposite Sides Of Proposed RE Legislation

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Patrick Lynch, Rhode Island's attorney general, has voiced concerns about S.2819, An Act Relating to Public Utilities Commission – Contracting Standards for Renewable Energy.

Lynch says the bill would circumvent the Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) recent decision regarding an eight-turbine wind farm off of Block Island. In March, the PUC rejected a long-term power purchase agreement between National Grid and Deepwater Wind, the developer of the proposed project.

Lynch made his remarks in a letter submitted by his office to Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski, PUC chairwoman.

Last week, Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, R-R.I., went before the state's Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture to speak in support of S.2819. During his testimony before the committee and in a letter entered into the record, Carcieri expressed his ‘unqualified support’ for the legislation and called for its swift passage.

In 2009, the General Assembly passed, and Carcieri signed into law, long-term contracting legislation to facilitate the development of renewable energy projects.

The legislation also required Rhode Island's electric distribution company to enter into long-term contracts, making it possible for developers to secure the financing necessary to develop this promising industry.

Lynch stressed that his opposition to the bill ‘is actually in keeping with my longstanding support for offshore wind energy development,’ commenting, ‘I maintain my strong position in favor of the promise of the offshore wind industry in the form of the much larger federal-waters offshore project that is still scheduled to go forward. This is to ensure that Rhode Island is on the cutting edge of green technology, to diminish our dependency on fossil fuels, to lure companies to our state and to generate additional jobs for our residents.’

According to Lynch, the bill would hurt wind energy development because it promotes ‘inefficient and unfairly selected small-scale demonstration projects’ in favor of larger projects.

The PUC found that the proposed contract between Deepwater Wind and National Grid was not commercially reasonable because it would be costly to Rhode Island taxpayers.

During his testimony, however, Carcieri pointed to the section of S.2819 that addresses the concern over pricing by mandating an ‘open book’ to provide a maximum level of transparency to the Block Island project that should result in savings to the state's ratepayers.

SOURCES: Office of the Rhode Island Attorney General, Office of Gov. Donald L. Carcieri

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