Governor Donald L. Carcieri today joined House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture Chairwoman V. Susan Sosnowski, House Majority Whip and bill sponsor J. Patrick O'Neill, labor and business leaders and residents of Block Island at a bill signing ceremony to formally sign into law H8083 Sub A & S2819 Sub A, legislation that clarifies the General Assembly's original intent to encourage and promote clean, independent, renewable energy in Rhode Island through a demonstration sized, offshore wind project.
"Today, we are taking another step forward in our efforts to be the first state in the nation to construct an offshore wind farm," said Governor Donald L. Carcieri. "We are setting a new course for renewable energy which will reduce our reliance on foreign oil, protect our environment and grow a new, green industry which will provide thousands of good-paying jobs for our citizens in the years to come. This was a collaborative effort and I extend my appreciation and thanks to the leadership and of the General Assembly and its staff, the sponsors of the legislation, Tim Costa and Chris Long of my staff, as well as the many industry experts and Block Island residents for their hard work and commitment to see this project through."
Speaker Gordon D. Fox added, "In light of the environmental disaster in the Gulf, the need for alternative energy sources is more apparent than ever. This legislation will enable Rhode Island to become a national leader in the renewable energy field and will greatly enhance the economic development efforts that the General Assembly has been working so closely on with Governor Carcieri."
President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed said, "Tremendous momentum has been gathering around wind power development in Rhode Island. This legislation allows our state to seize upon that opportunity to bring jobs and economic development to the state. It positions Rhode Island to be a hub of wind turbine manufacturing, and helps to make us a national leader in wind energy development."
The legislation requires that a new Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) between National Grid and Deepwater Wind be filed with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) with a decision rendered within 45 days and includes public comment. In addition, the legislation requires the RI Economic Development Corporation and the RI Department of Environmental Management to offer testimony before the PUC on the economic development and environmental benefits of the project.
The legislation also mandates that the new PPA contain an "open book" approach that requires Deepwater Wind to disclose and the Division of Public Utilities to verify, the construction and development costs of the project. Under this section of the legislation, ratepayers will benefit from any capital cost savings achieved during the development and construction of the demonstration project in the form of a lower power price. The legislation also caps the price of the power to that in the PPA previously filed with the PUC. However, that price shall be reduced commensurate with any savings achieved in the development of the project.
Senator V. Susan Sosnowski, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture and sponsor of the bill, said, "This important legislation is good for Block Island, and it is good for Rhode Island. It enables Block Island to obtain an electrical connection with the mainland, and facilitates a wind project which will benefit all Rhode Island residents. This demonstration project helps to grow the economy, stabilize electricity prices and protect the environment."
House Majority Whip and sponsor of the legislation Representative J. Patrick O'Neill said, "With this bill, Rhode Island is poised to become a national leader in the manufacturing of wind turbines and clean energy. In addition to the many environmental benefits to this legislation, it will also bring countless construction jobs, manufacturing jobs, and green economy jobs to Rhode Island."
The proposed Block Island Offshore Wind Project is key to Rhode Island's economic development and renewable energy agenda. The opportunity to be the first state in the nation to construct an offshore wind farm presents dramatic advantages to Rhode Island, including attracting the jobs and investment dollars of offshore wind turbine manufacturers, blade manufacturers and related businesses.
"This will help Rhode Island to establish a foothold on a range of manufacturing jobs in the green economy sector. There has already been great interest in our state expressed by world-class wind turbine companies that may locate here because of the steps we have taken in this legislation," added Representative Arthur Handy, Chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
"Wind is rapidly becoming a technologically and cost competitive energy source. States up and down the East Coast are quickly moving to develop projects. Rhode Island has the opportunity to catapult into being first in the nation "in the water' and set the pace for the emerging wind power industry, capturing the opportunity to attract the offshore wind supply chain," continued Carcieri. "This project holds the key to Rhode Island's economic future, serving as the catalyst for a multi-billion dollar industry that will create thousands of good paying jobs in this region and position Rhode Island as the Silicon Valley of Renewable Energy."