Energy future points to offshore wind

April 20, 2011

Jay Hancock appropriately congratulated Baltimore City for its recent project to convert traffic signals and street lights to LED technology, which dramatically reduces energy use (A bright future lighted by many small changes," April 17). He spoke of other ideas to reduce peak demand energy usage on summer days. He offers the idea of new natural gas plants and on-shore wind projects as the solution to Maryland's energy needs as opposed to the off-shore wind project proposed during this year's General Assembly session. Oh, but if it were so simple.

Conservation ideas like the "Peak Rewards" program address the problem of peak energy use on a summer day. The more difficult problem is lowering overall energy usage.

Efforts like those of Baltimore City get at the problem but energy investments must made by all levels — homeowners, businesses and government — in order to see a cut in overall energy use. Programs and incentives should be created by all levels of government to encourage these investments which create local jobs and business opportunities.

Conservation gets at the problem but to address climate change and assure the availability of electricity in the future we need to look at new sources including off-shore wind. The current financial market will not support the type and level of investments needed for new generation facilities whether they are wind or natural gas. Some form of assured payment stream to cover the investment costs of the facilities is required by banks in order to finance these projects.

In some ways it is similar to the process used under regulation where customers footed the bill for power plants which supplied the electricity. The current companies providing power to the grid are apparently quite happy with the prices which can be extracted from customers and therefore have no incentive to increase supply or change their aged facilities to address climate change.

The off-shore proposal is a project which provides a significant source of new electricity to an area suffering from the effects of congestion pricing under the current system. It also would also provide clean megawatts, a certain amount of jobs and the promise of a new regional industry.

We need the other ideas Jay Hancock mentioned such as increased solar deployment incentives and on-shore wind but these confront opposition from groups as reported in this paper. Even natural gas plants have faced concerns over their use of water and other impacts.

I agree with Jay Hancock that we should not miss these other chances for electricity, in fact we should not miss any of them.

Fred Hoover, Annapolis

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