PROVIDENCE – First it was 2%. Than zero.
Now, the financial incentive for Rhode Island’s primary utility company to buy more offshore wind power is again changing, with amended legislation approved by the House Committee on Corporations Tuesday. The latest version of the bill caps the payment that the state’s primary electric and gas company, Rhode Island Energy, would receive in exchange for the offshore wind procurement at up to 1%, with the final determination to be made by state utility regulators.
The 11-1 vote Tuesday came quickly and without discussion.
The legislation introduced on behalf of Gov. Daniel J. McKee originally would have given the company a 2% incentive to buy another 600 megawatts worth of offshore wind, but was revised in the Senate to eliminate a utility incentive entirely, with lawmakers wanting to avoid passing extra costs on to ratepayers.
The company may still get nothing for its procurement, but now, under the most recent changes, that decision will be left up to the R.I. Public Utilities Commission “because that’s what commissioners do for a living,” House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi, D-Warwick, said in an emailed statement.
Shekarchi framed the 1% cap as a guardrail, rather than a defined amount, and one that reflects negotiations between the House, Senate and governor.
The amended legislation also increases the amount of offshore wind power that the state is calling upon RI Energy to buy, from 600 to up to 1,000 megawatts, to better meet the decarbonization mandates set in the 2021 Act on Climate Law, according to Shekarchi.
How much – if anything- energy companies should get paid to lead the offshore wind procurement process has been a sticking point in recent years. Former utility operator National Grid balked at the prospect of losing that payment, which it received for the Block Island Wind Farm but not for the subsequent Revolution Wind Farm. And PPL Corp., which operates Rhode Island Energy, also expressed concerns over a zero-percent incentive.
Asked for comment about the latest version of the legislation, Ted Kresse, an RI Energy spokesman, said in an email that the company is still committed to supporting offshore wind and meeting the state’s renewable energy targets.
The amended House and Senate versions of the legislation will now advance to the House floor for consideration by the full chamber on Wednesday.
If approved and signed into law, PPL Corp. would have until Oct. 15 to publish a solicitation seeking to buy up to 1,0000-megawatts worth of offshore wind.
Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.
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