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Wind bill potentially more costly than reported

Have any of your reporters or editorial writers actually read the offshore wind bill ("A better wind bill," April 2)? I don't think so, or perhaps they simply don't understand it.

Every article or opinion piece I've read, whether in support or opposed, contains the same misrepresentation over and over again. The bill does not guarantee that a residential ratepayer will face a surcharge of only $1.50 per month after the wind farm is built and energy is flowing through the transmission lines.

What the bill actually says is that the Public Service Commission may not approve a developer's proposed project unless the projected net rate impact does not exceed $1.50 per month in 2012 dollars.

Pay close attention to the words "proposed" and "projected." As part of its review of a developer's application, the PSC will review the developer's project finance report. These reports include assumptions about what the wind farm will cost to build and operate along with assumptions about what income will be generated. If the developer wants to include a ratepayer surcharge on the project's estimated income side, the bill requires that it cannot assume the surcharge to be more than $1.50.

The $1.50 is a cap on what a developer can plug into its proposal. It is not a cap on what a ratepayer might actually have to pay. When pressed in hearings, even aides to Gov. Martin O'Malleyand representatives of the Maryland Energy Administration and the Public Service Commission concede that this is true. As Abby Hopper, the governor's emissary on the bill, testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 14, this is "not a cap." She also conceded that when the time comes for a surcharge to show up on a ratepayer's bill, it could be a lot more than $1.50 even after the effects of inflation. Listen to her recorded testimony if you don't believe me.

There is nothing in this bill or in any other Maryland law or regulation that will guarantee or limit how much a ratepayer will have to pay extra for offshore wind-generated energy. If this bill is passed and if a developer succeeds in building an offshore wind farm, don't be surprised if the surcharge exceeds $1.50 in 2012 dollars.

I urge you to correct your erroneous reporting. Whether Maryland's citizens support or oppose the bill, they should be given the correct facts on which to base their conclusions.

Teresa Zent, Baltimore

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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