The Block Island Times

Featured Letter: From councilor Chris Warfel

Jan 22, 2013

To: the Editor —

The First Amendment provides the protection of free speech. The right is not forfeited when elected to public office. I believe elected officials have an even greater responsibility to raise awareness whenever they feel it is necessary. The following is information that I believe the editor and reader should consider:

a) I formed the concept of a petition opposing Deepwater’s transmission cable before the Town Council vote, based on the conclusion that most people on Block Island have no idea how entangled the town is with the Block Island Power Company (BIPCo) and Deepwater Wind. A review of memos, reports, invoices and discussions with previous Town Council members indicate a lack of thorough and objective analysis to protect Block Islanders. “No public money will be invested,” was one of the reasons cited by a former member. Even if that were true, it still wouldn’t mean the project’s a good idea for Block Island. No provisions have been made for addressing the cable’s maintenance and replacement costs in a post-Deepwater era. This project could strangle the island’s economy.

b) No one representing the town has verified R.I. Department of Environmental Management testimony to the Public Utilities Commission. My attempts to verify the calculation showed that the analysis may be wrong. RIDEM has not been forthcoming in answering my concerns.

c) Deepwater has incorrectly represented the benefits of the project, attributing the annual generation and environmental benefits to BIPCo, which is mathematically incorrect and contractually impossible. Deepwater has shared energy production calculations with me, which I am reviewing.

d) The town has assumed that BIPCo will pay the equivalent of Natural Grid’s standard offer, when in fact we will be paying a homogenized rate offered by ISO New England’s generators. These rates may be very different. This directly impacts the savings to Block Island ratepayers. The analysis should have been conducted by professionals over 2.5 years ago, before any support was given by the town.

f) Deepwater is owned by two hedge funds with no experience in this technology, and whose leveraged rate of return will approach 100 percent by virtue of this unprecedented contract. I see this as risk.

e) Rhode Island ratepayers will pay approximately $240 million above reasonable renewable energy costs, and the best estimate is that six jobs will be created. BIPCo alone will lose more jobs than that most likely.

g) A recent study out of Britain indicates current offshore wind turbine technology has a 12- to 15-year life, not the 20 years assumed by Deepwater. (“The Performance of Wind Farms in the United Kingdom and Denmark.”) Who will pick up the pieces if this is true?

h) The town also appears unobjective when discussing BIPCo’s performance. As recently as this past Monday, the town manager once again stated that we are “…partners with BIPCo.” This is not necessarily true, but may explain why the town has ignored three energy studies, and even with a grant writer could not obtain renewable or energy conservation grants, keeping taxpayer energy costs unnecessarily high.

i) The technology exists today to deliver renewable energy at a fraction of the cost, keeping more money in Block Island’s and Rhode Island’s economy. Approximately 38 times the current BIPCo capacity could be built for the cost of Deepwater. Additionally, the cost of electricity from Block Island-based renewable energy sources would approach 2 cents per kWh in ten years. At that time Deepwater’s electricity will cost over 30 cents/kWh and continue to increase for another ten years.

Should I go on? There is a lot more. In summary, it seems it would be in the interest of Block Island residents if the Block Island Times used its resources to investigate these issues and not rely upon a resident working three jobs with a part-time assistant to bring these matters to light. If the editors are truly concerned about my conduct, why don’t you request that the matter be placed on the Town Council’s agenda? I would be more than happy to debate this issue.

Christopher Warfel

Town Council, TNS

ENTECH Engineering, Inc.

Sun Farm Oysters, LLC

Comments (1)
Posted by: Enid Thompson | Jan 23, 2013 05:20

Without wishing to step on any BI toes, but having just read about the ConserFest award mentioned in Mr. Wood's comments on the late Captain Rob Lewis casting a long shadow that should not be forgotten, then coming to Mr. Warfel's letter, it struck me that there is a gulf between these matters, that both address issues of conservation.  I profess no expertise but have been involved in fighting planning applications that threatened my home town before now.  Many people make their views known but few take up the baton.  I hope that Block Island can resolve Deepwater to its lasting benefit.

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