Friday, August 14, 2015

New Jersey says it will hire a consultant on offshore wind

New Jersey plans to bring on a consultant to advise it on developing offshore wind farms, a step that may finally move New Jersey to act on a five-year-old legislative mandate, Tom Johnson reports today for NJ Spotlight.
Board of Public Utilities President Richard Mroz said the yet-to-be-hired consultant would help the state write regulations essential to developing wind turbines off the Jersey coast. The regulations, four years behind schedule in being adopted, would spell out a financing mechanism to have utility customers fund the projects.
Mroz told the Senate Judiciary Committee of the agency’s plans during a reconfirmation hearing yesterday, at which senators criticized the board for not moving quicker to comply with a law aimed at promoting offshore wind farms. Mroz and fellow BPU Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso won confirmation from the Senate later in the day.
“Why hasn’t the BPU done its job?’’ asked Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), a leading proponent of the state moving more aggressively on developing renewable energy.
“Institutionally, the BPU has failed us in the establishment of wind energy.’’
Without the regulations, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to line up financing from Wall Street to help fund the projects, which could easily run to more than $1 billion. The regulations would pay the developers for the electricity the wind turbines produce through credits paid for by ratepayers.
Critics of the administration of Gov. Chris Christie have long complained about the lack of action on offshore wind, something the governor had supported during his first campaign. Some claim that the BPU has done nothing but deny offshore project applications since Christie began exploring the possibility of a run for President and started courting large, potential campaign contributors like  the Koch Brothers who are heavily invested in fossil fuels and have underwritten efforts to discount or oppose alternative energy technologies like wind and solar. What do you think? Is the BPU plan to hire an offshore energy consultant, sincere or simply a delaying tactic? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts.

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