Fishermen's to file legal appeal

New Jersey regulators have denied a motion from Fishermen’s Energy to reconsider their March decision to reject ratepayer subsidies for a proposed 25MW pilot offshore wind project, a decision the developer says it will now appeal in court.

“We are disappointed in this decision but not surprised,” says Fishermen’s chief operating officer and general counsel Paul Gallagher.

"Today’s perfunctory no vote by the Board of Public Utilities is the last step leading to our formal legal appeal. We are grateful New Jersey has an independent judiciary and look forward to having the merits of our application finally heard in the Appellate Division. We expect to be vindicated by the Courts,” he adds.

In its Motion for Reconsideration, the developer had asked BPU’s commissioners to reexamine “a number of apparent misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the record.”

In their original ruling, the commissioners cited findings by BPU staff that the project did not provide a “net economic benefit” for the state, is too expensive and creates an unacceptable level of risk for ratepayers if proposed federal sources of funding don’t materialize.

Fishermen’s contends that its proposed power price is "unambiguously" $199.17 per MWh but that the Board reviewed the project based on a $263 price. The developer says there is no risk to ratepayers as it would assume any additional cost above the the $199.17 price.

Fishermen’s is competing with five other developers for a second round of US Energy Department  funding that will enable three of them to demonstrated advanced offshore wind technology.  DOE in May will award three developers $46.6m each through 2017.

“The board clearly did not see the value in waiting for DOE to announced its pending decision of awardees … even though lack of certainty of federal funding, especially the DOE grant, was the BPU’s stated reason for denial,” says Fishermen’s communications director Rhonda Jackson.

Fishermen’s is the first developer to apply for New Jersey’s subsidy programme that will incentivize 1.1GW of offshore wind energy by 2020. It will award Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates (ORECs) to operators of wind farms on a megawatt-hour production basis.

With Fishermen’s, the OREC process has dragged on for three years, chilling potential commercial offshore wind investment as other developers wait for the process to become settled.

Investor-owned utilities in the state will be obliged to purchase electricity from the offshore facilities and also ORECS, which they can use to help comply with New Jersey’s renewable portfolio standard.

The $200m project, which would be located in state waters off Atlantic City, has all other regulatory approvals.