Despite concerns, legislation is pending to make offshore wind part of Delaware’s future – WGMD


A bill still awaiting Gov. John Carney’s signature is likely to make offshore wind energy a major part of Delaware’s future, despite concerns about its costs and impacts. The Delaware Energy Solutions Act of 2024 would give the State Energy Office sweeping new authority to negotiate 20-year contracts to purchase electricity from wind farms in Atlantic Ocean waters. The bill is the latest in a series of energy and environmental policy initiatives from the Carney administration. The bill’s preamble states, “This bill … aims to prepare for and facilitate the coming energy transition, which will be an integral part of implementing the Climate Change Solutions Act.”

The Delaware Energy Solutions Act of 2024–Senate Bill 265 (as amended),

Additional information from the Delaware House of Representatives newsletter:

“It authorizes the State Energy Office, with the approval of the Public Service Commission, to issue requests for proposals for the procurement of electricity from offshore wind,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Bellefonte, Edgemoor), one of the bill’s lead sponsors. “Bids cannot exceed 110% of Delaware’s benchmark price.”

Rep. Heffernan welcomed a Senate amendment attached to the bill that prevents the impact of a wind power contract from being passed on solely to a single utility’s payers. “That means Delaware could partner with another state, another utility, or a municipality so that… one utility and its payers don’t have to bear the entire cost. That’s a great amendment that really ensures that we’re not putting those costs on a single group of payers.”

In a column written in May, David T. Stevenson, director of the Caesar Rodney Institute’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, criticized the legislation, calling it “catastrophic for electricity customers.” He pointed out that only the first-year price is compared to the reference price, potentially distorting the starting point for the long-term contract.

Mr. Stevenson said the measure also allows for an annual increase of up to 2%. “That could increase Delmarva Power’s electricity costs by $2.5 billion over 20 years, or residential electricity bills by $200 a year,” he said.

Mr. Stevenson wrote that while surveys conducted by the University of Michigan showed that half of respondents were willing to pay $5 to $20 more per month on their electric bill for 100% wind and solar power, the same study found that only about 1% of electricity customers took advantage of the option when given the opportunity. “The Delaware Electric Cooperative offers 100% solar power for $10 more per month,” he said. “The participation rate is 0.3%.”

The impact of the law could be significant. Under the bill, the State Energy Office would have the authority to solicit bids for offshore wind energy up to a maximum total capacity of 1,200 megawatts. Based on the average output of an offshore wind turbine (55%), this measure would allow state agencies to contract enough electricity to power 460,000 homes – roughly the total number of housing units in Delaware.

Two years ago, the governor passed a law requiring that 40% of the electricity sold by Delaware utilities come from renewable energy by 2035. Last August, he signed the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023, which requires the state to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% over the next six years (compared to 2005 levels). The state aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Delaware’s Climate Action Plan will serve as a framework to guide all state agencies in achieving these goals. The 90-page document calls for dozens of actions, such as implementing new building codes, adopting California’s Advanced Clean Trucks Program, and new regulations for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Also part of the initiative are state regulations mandating increased sales of new zero-emission vehicles (primarily electric vehicles).

“This legislation is the product of ideology and blind optimism rather than a balanced approach to weighing the pros and cons of offshore wind,” said Rep. Rich Collins (R-Millsboro). “Proponents tout the ‘clean’ aspects of the turbines but ignore the significant carbon footprint associated with assembling, placing and maintaining each of these megastructures in the ocean. They also conveniently forget that offshore wind is comparatively expensive, can harm seabirds and marine life, and its intermittent, unpredictable output makes it unsuitable for providing the consistent baseload needed to maintain a stable power grid. In addition, the potential to negatively impact our billion-dollar tourism industry seems to have escaped any serious consideration.”

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