TRENTON – In an Oct. 12 letter to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the Division of Rate Counsel raised serious concerns about the evidentiary record upon which the BPU is proceeding to rule on Ocean Wind LLC’s request for its laying of transmission cables from the Ocean Wind 1 wind farm to the Point of Interconnection with the electric grid in Beesley’s Point, Upper Township.
Rate Counsel is an independent state agency housed within the Department of the Treasury. It is charged with being an independent advocate for New Jersey consumers. Its task is to ensure that all classes of utility consumers receive safe, adequate and proper utility service at an affordable price.
Rate Counsel deals with the provision of services across a variety of types including electric utilities, natural gas providers, telecommunications, cable/TV services and even insurance providers.
At stake in its Oct. 12 letter is the current application before the BPU in which Ocean Wind LLC is asking the board to approve its preferred route for high-voltage transmission cables across Cape May County land, even in the face of opposition to that route from the elected officials of the county.
The designation of the preferred route as “reasonably necessary” for the completion of the Ocean Wind 1 project would allow Ocean Wind LLC to apply to the state for the needed environmental permits even without the support of the county.
Rate Counsel’s objections to the process thus far focus on the lack of any cost estimated from Ocean Wind LLC regarding the preferred route for its cables and the alternative routes which the company says it “qualitatively eliminated.” Rate counsel reminds the board in its letter that it is the ratepayers of the state who “will ultimately pay for the development of offshore wind.” Counsel urges the board to require the release of cost estimates at the least for the preferred route and the least expensive route.
Rate Counsel takes the position that cost should be a part of the “reasonably necessary” legal standard. Lacking appropriate information on costs and on the criteria used to eliminate alternative routes, Rate Counsel states that the evidentiary record is deficient and that it therefore limits the opportunity for stakeholder involvement in the decision process.
Oral arguments before the BPU will be heard on the Ocean Wind LLC petition on November 10 at 9 a.m. The hearing will be virtual, and the public can view the hearing on YouTube.
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