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June 18, 2010

Rhode Island Governor signs key offshore wind legislation

Rhode Island Governor Governor Don Carcieri has signed a bill that speeds regulatory oversight of the proposed Deepwater Wind wind farm off of Block Island.

Governor Carcieri signed the bill Tuesday at a Statehouse ceremony.

The legislation requires that a new Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between National Grid and Deepwater Wind be filed with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) with a decision rendered within 45 days and includes public comment. In addition, the legislation requires the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to offer testimony before the PUC on the economic development and environmental benefits of the project.

The legislation also mandates that the new PPA contain an "open book" approach that requires Deepwater Wind to disclose and the Division of Public Utilities to verify, the construction and development costs of the project. Under this section of the legislation, ratepayers will benefit from any capital cost savings achieved during the development and construction of the demonstration project in the form of a lower power price. The legislation also caps the price of the power to that in the PPA previously filed with the PUC. However, that price shall be reduced commensurate with any savings achieved in the development of the project.

"This project is perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet our state's renewable energy goals, take us one step closer to energy independence, and achieve lasting economic progress that will best serve our citizens for many years to come," Governor Carcieri said following passage of the legislation.

The proposed Block Island Offshore Wind Project is seen as giving Rhode Island the opportunity to be the first state in the U.S. to construct an offshore wind farm. That is thought to give the state "dramatic advantages," including attracting the jobs and investment dollars of offshore wind turbine manufacturers, blade manufacturers and related businesses.

"Rhode Island has the opportunity to catapult into being first in the nation 'in the water' and set the pace for the emerging wind power industry, capturing the opportunity to attract the offshore wind supply chain," said the governor.

"The offshore wind industry holds the key to Rhode Island's economic future," he continuedi. "This $200 million dollar investment of private capital by Deepwater will be the catalyst for a multi-billion dollar industry that will create thousands of good paying jobs in this region and position Rhode Island as the Silicon Valley of Renewable Energy."

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