Two years after legislation, critics say Christie should hurry up on offshore wind

    New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney and environmentalists are calling on Gov. Chris Christie to do more to encourage offshore wind development in the Garden State.

    They say the administration is moving too slowly in finalizing an offshore wind certificate program that would help finance creation of wind farms.

    Two years ago, the governor signed legislation to create a market for offshore wind in New Jersey.

    The law requires that 1,100 megawatts of power come from offshore wind, and authorizes the state’s Board of Public Utilities to develop an offshore renewable energy certificate program, creating a guaranteed market and revenue stream for future projects.

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    But today, the application process for those certificates still is not finalized. New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel said even though offshore wind projects are still in the early stage of development, that’s hampering progress.

    “You’re talking about companies that need to borrow billions of dollars to put up these windmills,” Tittel said. “Unless there is an assurance in the market that it’s going to be stable, that there is a funding mechanism to help pay for the windmills, then you’re not going to get the investors.”

    State ratepayer advocate Stefanie Brand said work on establishing certificate rules and funding through ratepayer subsidies is moving forward, but doing it right is more important than doing it fast.

    “Once we establish this and once they start generating, we are on the hook, ratepayers are on the hook,” Brand said. “So I want to make sure we don’t pay more than we need to.”

    The state has hired a consultant and hopes the credit program is finalized by the end of the year.

    Eleven companies have expressed interest in developing projects off the coast of New Jersey.

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