§ 39-26.1-7. Town of New Shoreham Project.
(a) The general assembly finds it is in the public interest for the state to facilitate the construction of a small-scale offshore wind demonstration project off the coast of Block Island, including an undersea transmission cable that interconnects Block Island to the mainland in order to: position the state to take advantage of the economic development benefits of the emerging offshore wind industry; promote the development of renewable energy sources that increase the nation's energy independence from foreign sources of fossil fuels; reduce the adverse environmental and health impacts of traditional fossil fuel energy sources; and provide the Town of New Shoreham with an electrical connection to the mainland. To effectuate these goals, and notwithstanding any other provisions of the general or public laws to the contrary, the Town of New Shoreham project, its associated power purchase agreement, transmission arrangements, and related costs are authorized pursuant to the process and standards contained in this section. The Narragansett Electric Company is hereby authorized to enter into an amended power purchase agreement with the developer of offshore wind for the purchase of energy, capacity, and any other environmental and market attributes, on terms that are consistent with the power purchase agreement that was filed with the commission on December 9, 2009 in docket 4111, and amendments changing dates and deadlines, provided that the pricing terms of such agreement are amended as more fully described in subsection 39-26.1-7(e), in addition to other amendments that are made to take into account the provisions of this section as amended since the filing of the agreement in docket 4111. Any amendments shall ensure that the pricing can only be lower, and never exceed, the original pricing included in the power purchase agreement that was reviewed in docket 4111. The demonstration project subject to the amended power purchase agreement shall include up to (but not exceeding) eight (8) wind turbines with aggregate nameplate capacity of no more than thirty (30) megawatts, even if the actual capacity factor of the project results in the project technically exceeding ten (10) megawatts.
(b) The amended power purchase agreement shall be filed with the Public Utilities Commission. Upon the filing of the amended power purchase agreement, the commission shall open a new docket. The commission shall allow the parties to docket 4111 to become parties in the new docket who may file testimony within fifteen (15) days of the filing of the amended agreement. The commission shall allow other interventions on an expedited basis, provided they comply with the commission standards for intervention. The developer shall provide funding for the economic development corporation to hire an expert experienced in power markets, renewable energy project financing, and power contracts who shall provide testimony regarding the terms and conditions of the power purchase agreement to assist the commission in its review, provided that the developer shall be precluded from influencing the choice of expert, which shall be in the sole discretion of the economic development corporation. This testimony shall be filed within twenty (20) days after the filing of the amended power purchase agreement. The parties shall have the right to respond to the testimony of this expert through oral examination at the evidentiary hearings. The commission shall hold one public comment hearing within five (5) days after the filing of the expert testimony. Evidentiary hearings shall commence no later than thirty (30) days from the filing of the amended power purchase agreement.
(c) The commission shall review the amended power purchase agreement taking into account the state's policy intention to facilitate the development of a small offshore wind project in Rhode Island waters, while at the same time interconnecting Block Island to the mainland. The commission shall review the amended power purchase agreement and shall approve it if:
(i) The amended agreement contains terms and conditions that are commercially reasonable;
(ii) The amended agreement contains provisions that provide for a decrease in pricing if savings can be achieved in the actual cost of the project pursuant to subsection 39-26.1-7(e);
(iii) The amended agreement is likely to provide economic development benefits, including: facilitating new and existing business expansion and the creation of new renewable energy jobs; the further development of Quonset Business Park; and, increasing the training and preparedness of the Rhode Island workforce to support renewable energy projects; and
(iv) The amended power purchase agreement is likely to provide environmental benefits, including the reduction of carbon emissions. An advisory opinion on the findings of economic benefit set forth in (iii) above shall be provided by the Rhode Island economic development corporation and an advisory opinion on the environmental benefits set forth in (iv) above shall be filed by the Rhode Island department of environmental management. The advisory opinions shall be filed with the commission within twenty (20) days of filing of the amended power purchase agreement. The commission shall give substantial deference to the factual and policy conclusions set forth in the advisory opinions in making the required findings. Notwithstanding any other provisions of the general laws to the contrary, for the purposes of this section, "commercially reasonable" shall mean terms and pricing that are reasonably consistent with what an experienced power market analyst would expect to see for a project of a similar size, technology and location, and meeting the policy goals in subsection (a) of this section.
(d) The commission shall issue a written decision to accept or reject the amended power purchase agreement, without conditions, no later than forty-five (45) days from the filing of the amended power purchase agreement, without delay or extension of the timeframes contained in this section. Any review of the commission's decision shall be according to chapter 5 of title 39, and the supreme court shall advance any proceeding under this section so that the matter is afforded precedence on the calendar and shall be heard and determined with as little delay as possible. The provisions of § 39-26.1-4 and the provisions of subsections (b), (c), (d), and (f) of § 39-26.1-5 shall apply, and all costs incurred in the negotiation, administration, enforcement, transmission engineering associated with the design of the cable, and implementation of the project and agreement shall be recovered annually by the electric distribution company in electric distribution rates. The pricing under the agreement shall not have any precedential effect for purposes of determining whether other long-term contracts entered into pursuant to this chapter are commercially reasonable.
(e) Cap and lower price. (i) The amended power purchase agreement subject to subsection 39-26.1-7(a) shall provide for terms that shall decrease the pricing if savings can be achieved in the actual cost of the project, with all realized savings allocated to the benefit of ratepayers. (ii) The amended power purchase agreement shall also provide that the initial fixed price contained in the signed power purchase agreement submitted in docket 4111 shall be the maximum initial price, and any realized savings shall reduce such price. After making any such reduction to the initial price based on realized savings, the price for each year of the amended power purchase agreement shall be fixed by the terms of said agreement. (iii) The amended power purchase agreement shall require that the costs of the project shall be certified by the developer. An independent third-party acceptable to the division of public utilities and carriers shall within thirty (30) days of this certification by the developer, verify the accuracy of such costs at the completion of the construction of the project. The reasonable costs of this verification, shall be paid for by the developer. Upon receipt of such third-party verification, the division shall notify the Narragansett Electric Company of the final costs. The public utilities commission shall reduce the expense to ratepayers consistent with a verified reduction in the project costs.
(f) The project shall include a transmission cable between the Town of New Shoreham and the mainland of the state. The electric distribution company, at its option, may elect to own, operate, or otherwise participate in such transmission cable project. The electric distribution company, however, has the option to decline to own, operate, or otherwise participate in the transmission cable project. The electric distribution company may elect to purchase the transmission cable and related facilities from the developer or an affiliate of the developer, pursuant to the terms of a transmission facilities purchase agreement negotiated between the electric distribution company and the developer or its affiliate, an unexecuted copy of which shall be provided to the division of public utilities and carriers for the division's consent to execution. The division shall have twenty (20) days to review the agreement. If the division independently determines that the terms and pricing of the agreement are reasonable, taking into account the intention of the legislature to advance the project as a policy-making matter, the division shall provide its written consent to the execution of the transmission facilities purchase agreement. Once written consent is provided, the electric distribution company and its transmission affiliate are authorized to make a filing with the federal energy regulatory commission to put into effect transmission rates to recover all of the costs associated with the purchase of the transmission cable and related facilities and the annual operation and maintenance. The revenue requirement for the annual cable costs shall be calculated in the same manner that the revenue requirement is calculated for other transmission facilities in Rhode Island for local network service under the jurisdiction of the federal energy regulatory commission. The division shall be authorized to represent the State of Rhode Island in those proceedings before the federal energy regulatory commission, including the authority to enter into any settlement agreements on behalf of the state to implement the intention of this section. The division shall support transmission rates and conditions that allow for the costs related to the transmission cable and related facilities to be charged in transmission rates in a manner that socializes the costs throughout Rhode Island. Should the electric distribution company own, operate, and maintain the cable, the annual costs incurred by the electric distribution company directly or through transmission charges shall be recovered annually through a fully reconciling rate adjustment from customers of the electric distribution company and/or from the Block Island Power Company or its successor, subject to any federal approvals that may be required by law. The allocation of the costs related to the transmission cable through transmission rates or otherwise shall be structured so that the estimated impact on the typical residential customer bill for such transmission costs for customers in the Town of New Shoreham shall be higher than the estimated impact on the typical residential customer bill for customers on the mainland of the electric distribution company. This higher charge for the customers in the Town of New Shoreham shall be developed by allocating the actual cable costs based on the annual peak demands of the Block Island Power Company and the electric distribution company, and these resultant costs recovered in the per kWh charges of each company. In any event, the difference in the individual charge per kWh or per customer/month shall not exceed the ratio of average demand to peak demand for Block Island Power Company relative to the electric distribution company, currently at 1.8 to 1.0 respectively. To the extent that any state tariffs or rates must be put into effect in order to implement the intention of this section, the public utilities commission shall accept filings of the same and shall approve them.
(g) Any charges incurred by the Block Island Power Company or its successor pursuant to this section or other costs incurred by the Block Island Power Company in implementing this section, including the cost of participation in regulatory proceedings in the state or at the federal energy regulatory commission shall be recovered annually in rates through a fully reconciling rate adjustment, subject to approval by the commission. If the electric distribution company owns, operates, or otherwise participates in the transmission cable project, pursuant to subsection 39-26.1-7(b) the provisions of § 39-26.1-4 shall not apply to the cable cost portion of the Town of New Shoreham Project.
(h) Any contract entered into pursuant to this section shall count as part of the minimum long-term contract capacity.
(i) If the electric distribution company elects not to own the transmission cable, the developer may elect to do so directly, through an affiliate, or a third-party and the power purchase agreement pricing shall be adjusted to allow the developer, an affiliate or a third-party, to recover the costs (including financing costs) of the transmission facilities, subject to complying with the terms as set forth in the power purchase agreement between the developer and the electric distribution company.
(P.L. 2009, ch. 51, § 1; P.L. 2009, ch. 53, § 1; P.L. 2009, ch. 216, § 1; P.L. 2009, ch. 217, § 1; P.L. 2010, ch. 31, § 1; P.L. 2010, ch. 32, § 1.)