Delaware plan moves forward to offer state subsidies to energy company

A company that says it could bring 900 jobs to Delaware is one step closer to its goal, but there is still concern about the effects on ratepayers.  

Bloom Energy announced a plan earlier this year to set up a facility in Newark that would manufacture fuel cells.  State incentives were part of the deal.  Delmarva Power customers would face surcharges on their utility bills as the project moves forward. 

The Delaware Public Service Commission heard testimony Tuesday in Dover before approving the plan. 

“We are pleased that the PSC has approved the tariff, and are looking forward to working with the state, the University of Delaware and Delmarva to now begin the process of creating jobs and applying our innovative fuel cell technology to bring affordable, reliable and clean energy to the entire east coast,” Bloom Energy Chief Financial Officer and Chief Commercial Officer Bill Kurtz said in a statement. 

“This vote brings us close to creating hundreds of jobs for Delawareans and making a substantial positive impact for our state’s economy,” Governor Jack Markell added.  Regulators were asked prior to the hearing to take more time to consider the rate impact of the proposal.  

Prior to the meeting, three Republican members of the state House of Representatives asked PSC Chairperson Arnetta McRae to delay action for a week or two to more carefully consider the possible ramifications should the Bloom Energy proposal fail.

“Under one scenario, ratepayers could be on the hook for at least a dozen years to pay up to 70-percent of the cost of electricity they are not receiving,” Representatives Greg Lavelle, Lincoln Willis and Dan Short said in their letter.  “While we are eager for our state to attract new, quality employers, Delmarva’s customers should not be placed in the position of assuming the risk of these economic development efforts.”

Under terms of the agreement, Delmarva customers would pay one-dollar more per month, on average.  

The Bloom facility would be built at the site of the former Chrysler Assembly Plant, which is now the  site of the University of Delaware’s Science and Technology Campus.  Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

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