Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Harris McDowell and his Self Appointed Watchdogs

Harris McDowell's opinion piece in the News Journal starts out by defending his five hearings, scheduled, he says, at the request of Senate leadership:
Some have called these hearings a "charade" or a delaying tactic. That's simply untrue; although it does leave me asking why those who want this deal so badly object so vociferously to a full, public airing of these issues before the state decides whether to take this major step.
So, after a year of hearings, analyses, reports, negotiations and thousands of public comments (ten to one in favor of wind power), Senator McDowell woke up one morning and decided we need "a full, public airing of these issues."
Fair enough; maybe he can help us understand the economic impact of the project. Or maybe not:
For instance, to date, no one has been able to offer precise numbers about what ratepayers will be paying over the next 25 years. When my colleagues hear cost estimates ranging from an additional $14 to $75 a month, it makes them understandably nervous.
What makes me nervous is the way McDowell is throwing around such spurious figures, oblivious of the fact that someone has offered precise numbers. The Public Service Commission staff, in its final report, offered a number, and it doesn't fall within the range McDowell cites.
The number has two components: the price, which is specified in the Power Purchase Agreement, and the expected cost of energy when the project goes on line, which is at best an educated guess.
The PSC staff report presents a number of $6.46, which is probably high, since it is based on the assumption that natural gas prices will go down. I have described why I don't think that's likely.
Senator McDowell continues by complaining that his critics are "haranguing our effort to inform the public," and suggests further questions for those he describes as "self-appointed watchdogs."
The problem for Harris McDowell and other opponents of offshore wind face is not that the issue hasn't had enough public discussion; no other energy debate in our lifetime has generated as much public interest. Instead, I suspect that the problem for wind power opponents, including Delmarva Power, is that the issue has had too much public discussion, and that they have lost control of that discussion.
McDowell's hearings do serve one purpose; they are setting the stage for Delmarva Power to come up with something plausible sounding in time to kill the Bluewater Wind project. The hearings are buying a little extra time for Delmarva Power to come up with an excuse that that sounds reasonable enough to convince enough legislators to kill the wind farm without looking mean or obtuse when it comes to renewable energy.
Senator McDowell is trying his hardest to obfuscate and change the subject, but he isn't going to keep this self appointed watchdog from keeping a close eye on his hearings and correcting the record when weak or fallacious arguments are offered as reasons for killing the offshore wind farm.

4 Comments:

Anonymous j austin said...

I find the Sentor's other questions simply amazing for the State's Energy Czar.

I'll take a cut at the Senator's questions. Wouldn't you think he knows the answers????

• How would a major policy change in Washington affect Delmarva's residential and small business ratepayers if a 25-year contract has already been locked in place?
A national renewable energy requirement would increase demand and drive up current prices, so would any carbon tax. Thus, costs likely would increase over the current PPA.

• What if the price of wind power decreases before the wind farm is operational, or in the early years of the contract, and how that would affect the 25-year contract?
I would think the Senator knows a contract is a contract. The PPA is for 25% on average of future power needs. If prices go up or down, only that portion under contract would be at lower or higher costs.

• Why has New Jersey been able to attract off shore wind developers, including Bluewater Wind, without mandating a 25-year power purchase agreement?
Delaware's HB-6 asked for long term contract to stabilize rates. The Senator voted on that bill. Didn't he??? The contract and the off shore resource attracted the developer.

10:00 PM, February 19, 2008  
Anonymous Maria Evans said...

"Delaware's HB-6 asked for long term contract to stabilize rates. The Senator voted on that bill. Didn't he??? "

He SPONSORED HB 6. Wrap your brain around THAT for a moment.

6:19 AM, February 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DeLuca, Adams, McDowell all co-sponsored HB6 in April 2006. Then McDowell passed it out of his committee on a unanimous vote. Days later, it was approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor. But now all three legislators are being accused of stopping a Yes vote for the wind project on 12/17/07, during a private discussion with Controller General Larson. Was Larson forced to take orders from less than a majority of the Legislative Council?

Each member of the Legislative Council should explain, in writing and for the record, whether they were present during the 12/17/07 conversation with Russ Larson in which he was directed not to approve the wind contract. Is that too much to ask?

11:00 AM, February 20, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delmarva Dingleberry Extraordinaire.

5:52 PM, February 22, 2008  

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