Sunday, April 13, 2008

Harris McDowell's Report a Foregone Conclusion

Harris McDowell is having trouble getting his colleagues on the Senate Energy & Transit Committee to agree to his draft of the committee report slamming the Bluewater Wind project. And it's not as though they need time to assimilate its contents. We've known for a long time that if McDowell were the only author, the report's findings and conclusions would be a foregone conclusion.
But because McDowell is only one member of the committee, we don't yet know what the report will say. It may take another couple of weeks for it to be toned down enough to gain approval from the committee's membership. But that hasn't stopped some insiders from leaking the report to media, such as WDEL, which ran this story on Friday:
More details are coming to light as to why the Senate Energy and Transit Committee may suggest killing the proposed deal for an off-shore wind farm.
In a draft report obtained by WDEL News, the committee concluded the process of selecting the proposed Power Purchase Agreement between Delmarva Power and Bluewater Wind didn't allow for its comparison to other more beneficial and less costly options.
Of course the process didn't compare these options, because the competitive process was based on a law, HB 6, that set the criteria for selecting a new, in-state energy source.
It also states the agreement would create a net economic loss for the state in terms of jobs and disposable income.
As I have said many times over, the calculation that the wind farm would cost ratepayers more is based on the unlikely premise that fossil fuel prices will go down in the next several years and stay down for years to come. By the way, I and others have said this to the committee, in person, on paper and in electronic form, so I don't think they may have overlooked the point.
The report says committee recommendations include instructing the Controller General to vote against the agreement, and the General Assembly monitor a new process that includes competitively bid, long-term contracts, for renewable energy, including on-shore wind.
Strictly speaking, the draft report cannot refer to committee recommendations until such time the committee actually votes on the report.
There are further reasons for discounting what the report may eventually say, if and when it gains approval of the committee.
We know that committee chair Harris McDowell has been an unrelenting opponent of the offshore wind proposal.

We know he has stacked his hearings with opponents on the wind farm. His invited guests were invariably opposed the project, and given the first speaking slots while proponents were told to sign up to testify. In my case, even signing up by e-mail didn't guarantee a speaking slot.
We know McDowell spent public funds to hire a pricey lawyer to interrogate the leadership of the Public Service Commission, whose transgression was implementing HB 6, which the General Assembly had passed two years ago.
We know he brought in an outside expert, Michael T. Hogan, to point out the errors of our ways for even considering building an offshore wind farm in Delaware. (Some readers of this blog may remember Mr. Hogan for his emphatic attempts to dissuade us from the folly of offshore wind.) By the way, I don't think that paying Mr. Hogan's expense likely affected his testimony; I think he was asked to testify because McDowell knew what he would say in advance.
All this is academic because there is, as yet, no committee report. But while McDowell and his allies can't gain approval for a one-sided draft report, they can leak their version to the media without the bother of a committee vote.
I would expect that these leaks will continue. In the meanwhile, I also expect that our local media will consider the source of the leaks, and be mindful of the fact that the report reflects nothing more than the concerted efforts of wind power's most determined opponents to kill the Bluewater project.

9 Comments:

Anonymous kavips said...

Well said, worthy of another chuckle.

11:35 PM, April 13, 2008  
Anonymous Nancy Willing said...

Tom, you might have missed the discussion on Loudell's blog

http://www.wdel.com/blog/?postid=1095#comment4593

But a few of us have been trying to figure out why WDEL felt so free to reiterate items from this draft as if it were vetted.

I had to call Rick off air because of their one call rule. I asked him to mention that this was a draft only and that it was not vetted which he did if reluctantly.

Both Kowalko and I also asked Loudell a few pointed questions on his blog.

7:52 AM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's all about getting Connectiv to build that wind farm.

8:56 AM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above comment - 'it's all about getting Connectiv to build that wind farm' - raises some interesting questions, such as:

Is Delmarva really opposed to an offshore wind farm on technical grounds, or only opposed to the idea of being forced to buy electricity from someone else's offshore wind farm on terms other than its own?

During the bidding process Connectiv was certainly free to propose an offshore wind farm, but it did not do so and instead proposed a conventional natural gas-fired plant. As such, why would Connectiv (under the direction of its parent company, PEPCO) change its position and consider constructing a wind farm of its own?

As a largely unrelated question: Being that the original HB 6 has spawned such an unexpectly complex and contentious mess, could the final result of all this be to go back to square one, rescind HB 6 and start all over again but in a different way?

A secondary question to the one above: even if the Bluewater proposal gets the green light from both houses, can Delmarva continue to tie things up for years via litigation?

If I were forced to wager a large sum of my own money, I'm sad to say that I would have to bet that Delaware is NOT going to have an offshore wind farm anytime in the foreseeable future.

Edmund Dohnert

9:42 AM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember, Connectiv sued to build a wind farm after they bid a natural gas plant. It's not about being forced to buy electricity, it's about who generates that electricity and who gets to profit from it.

12:01 PM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the untold stories in this is Conectiv's construction of a new gas power plant in Pennsylvania. Constellation Energy gave them a contract to buy power when the plant is finished. Constellation Energy now has a new costly electricity agreement with the City of Lewes for its residents. Bend over, Lewes, you're paying for Conectiv's new gas plant in PA. Thanks to Pepco/Conectiv/Delmarva Power, Delaware money is going to another out-of-state power source.

1:57 PM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the untold stories in this is Conectiv's construction of a new gas power plant in Pennsylvania. Constellation Energy gave them a contract to buy power when the plant is finished. Constellation Energy now has a new costly electricity agreement with the City of Lewes for its residents. Bend over, Lewes, you're paying for Conectiv's new gas plant in PA. Thanks to Pepco/Conectiv/Delmarva Power, Delaware money is going to another out-of-state power source.

1:57 PM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time the Senate asked how a draft paper got to the media. This caper and the other dirty tricks surrounding the hearings are rocketing the reputation of that august body straight into the toilet.

2:01 PM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, yes, all this is largely about who gets to generate the electricity and who gets to profit from it.

As such, it should be obvious why Delmarva does not want to find itself locked into a long-term contract with Bluewater. When Delmarva 'buys' electricity from a Conectiv plant, its parent company, PEPCO, profits from both the 'sale' to Delmarva and from Delmarva's reselling of that electricity to the consumer. It's essentially a form of veritcal integration. However, if Delmarva buys the same amount of electricity from Bluewater, PEPCO is excluded from the profit to be derived on that end of the transaction. Ergo, it makes less money. No mystery here.

Delmarva's latest ploy in seeking out-of-state bids for on-shore wind power is merely an attempt to muddy the waters and to cast doubts on the wisdom of going with Bluewater.

There are many millions of dollars at stake for Delmarva in this whole matter, and they are not going to go down without a long drawn-out fight. If they can't kill the Bluewater proposal in the legislature, I wouldn't be surprised if this thing enters into some sort of litigation phase, though I don't have a feel for what form such litigation my take.

Edmund Dohnert

3:39 PM, April 14, 2008  

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