NJ Senate Passes Bill To Force Offshore Wind Approval

The New Jersey Senate passed a bill Thursday that would force the state Board of Public Utilities to approve a wind power plant that could be one of the first in the nation, a plan the board has blocked twice.

The bill, which now goes to the Assembly, would require the BPU to greenlight Fishermen’s Energy LLC’s $188 million, 25-megawatt demonstration plant off the coast of Atlantic City. The Senate also passed a resolution urging the board to adopt regulations from a 2010 law that was meant to push the Garden State to the forefront of wind-generated power.

The New Jersey project has hit administrative roadblocks since Fishermen’s first filed its application in 2011. The matter is back before the New Jersey Appellate Division after the BPU again denied the plans Nov. 21. The regulator previously shot down the application in March, which Fishermen’s appealed, but the court returned the case to the agency in August to consider the $47 million grant commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Bill S2711, sponsored by Democratic state Sens. Bob Smith and Jim Whelan, passed the Senate 22-14 and will now go to the Assembly. Democratic Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, head of the Telecommunications Committee and one of the Assembly bill’s sponsors, says he intends to bring the bill up at his committee’s meeting next month.

In addition to mandating approval of the wind farm, the bill also removes language from the New Jersey Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA) that requires an applicant to submit an economic cost-benefit analysis to the BPU for approval. That was the grounds for the board’s rejection of the Fishermen’s project.

The BPU has refused to budge from its view that the project wouldn’t provide a net economic and environmental benefit to New Jersey ratepayers, as the OWEDA requires. The regulator also has found that Fishermen’s hasn’t demonstrated financial integrity.

According to the BPU, Fishermen’s hasn’t shown that the project is viable at its proposed price for those subsidies — $199.17 per megawatt-hour — without $100 million in federal funding, and it doesn’t have that money in hand. Uncertainties remain over Fishermen’s receipt of the DOE grant, and there’s still the issue of absent funding from an investment tax credit that would help the developer reach that $100 million figure, the BPU said in its November decision.

The second measure, SR112, sponsored by Smith and Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, would push the BPU to implement OWEDA and another law, the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act.

The law directed the agency to develop an offshore wind renewable energy certificate program that would mandate a percentage of electricity sold in the state to be from wind energy. The offshore wind renewable energy certificates will help finance the project and ultimately be passed on to ratepayers.

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NEW JERSEY SENATE TO PUSH BPU ON OFFSHORE WIND FARM APPROVAL

The New Jersey Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Monday pushed forward legislation that would force the Board of Public Utilities to approve the first wind farm off the state’s coast, even though the project has been blocked twice.

The committee approved two measures, one of which would compel the BPU to approve 25-megawatt demonstration project proposed by the Fishermen’s Energy LLC. Sponsored by committee chairman Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, and state Sen. Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic City, S2711 would also remove requirements from the New Jersey Offshore Wind Economic Development Act that a cost-benefit analysis must be submitted with the pilot project and that the BPU must use the analysis in its approval.

The project has hit administrative roadblocks, stalling its progress, since Fishermen’s first filed its application in 2011. The matter is back before the New Jersey Appellate Division after the state Board of Public Utilities on Nov. 21 again denied the plans. The regulator previously shot down the application in March, which Fishermen’s appealed, but the court returned the case to the agency in August to consider a $47 million grant commitment from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The second measure, SR112, sponsored by Smith and Senate President Steve Sweeney, D-Gloucester, would push the BPU to implement the OWEDA and another law, the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act. The law directed the agency to develop an offshore wind renewable energy certificate program that would mandate a percentage of electricity sold in the state to be from wind energy.

The senators noted during the hearing that although the OWEDA was passed in 2010, little progress has been made on the wind farm project.

The offshore wind renewable energy certificates will help finance the project and ultimately be passed on to ratepayers.

S2711 was approved by the committee, 4-1, and SR112 by a 5-0 vote. Both measures now head to the state Senate floor.

The BPU has refused to budge from its view that the project wouldn’t provide a net economic and environmental benefit to New Jersey ratepayers, as the OWEDA requires. The regulator has also found that Fishermen’s hasn’t demonstrated financial integrity.

“We’ve been trying for a lot of years to get offshore wind going in this state,” Smith said. “Seven, eight years later we have nothing.”