Gov, leg leaders exchange shots on renewables


The dour fiscal climate is likely to make more difficult efforts to promote renewable energy in Rhode Island. Meanwhile, in a recent exchange of letters, two General Assembly leaders and Governor Carcieri debated the state's approach for selecting Deepwater Wind to develop an offshore $1.5 billion wind farm.  

Here's part of what outgoing Senate president Joseph Montalbano and House Majority Leader Gordon Fox last month wrote to the governor:

We write to you with great concern about the future of renewable energy development in and for our state. As you know, we were both deeply involved in the renewable energy legislative agenda that passed during the 2008 session. While we have a difference of opinion with you regarding the approach to long term renewable energy contracting, that issue will hopefully be resolved during the 2009 session.

We are writing to you to express our strong disagreement with your administration's approach to the proposed off-shore wind energy development. The emergence of an "exclusive" arrangement with one developer not ony violates the terms of the public Request for Proposal Process, but is also very bad business for the state. We believe that entering into an exclusive deal with one developer after an RPF-process that did not contain exclusive development rights in its terms, is biased and non-competitive.

Furthermore, the other states and nations that are proceeding with off-shore wind development are developing multiple sites with multiple developers. An October 2008 international conference at Roger Williams Law School attracted numerous scientists who are expert in this field, all of whom quesitoned the logic of a sole contract. They argued that the only means to obtain the lowest price for the produced wind energy is to have a competitive market that results from having multiple developers. A monopoly inevitably leads to higher energy prices.

Contending that a contract "that prevents competition is illogical, unjustified, and will be costly to the state in the long-run," Montalbano and Fox asked Carcieri to "please reconsider this decision and negotiate a contract that creates a competitive environment."

Here are excerpts from the governor's response, which was dated December 23:

I assure you that the selection process was both thoughtful and extremely competitive. The Department of Administration sought proposals from wind energy developers worldwide. The evaluation criteria utilized for the ultimate selection of an energy development partner for our State were based on qualifications, the ability to provide competitive rates to Rhode Island's taxpayers and demonstrable economic development benefits to our State. Seven proposals were received, which is more than other states have received for similar large scale ocean wind farm projects.

I assembled a selection committee, comprised of Rhode Island's top energy, academic and economic development professionals to carefully evaluate these proposals. The selection committee augmented its own proven skills and knowledge with other leading experts in energy economics and engineering, including an engineer from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The selection committee unanimously selected Deepwater Wind as the State's preferred developer. This was an open and transparent process. The results of the selection committee's evaluations and the contents of the bid proposals of the seven competitors were made available to the public before the negotiations with the successful renewable energy developer commenced.

In closing, Carcieri expressed hope to Montalbano and Fox that his letter "helps alleviate your concerns," and he cited a "perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity to meet our State's renewable energy goals and achieve lasting economic progress."

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