Commentary: Opposed to renewable portfolio legislation in Delaware

By Kimberly Schlichting

The Delaware General Assembly has started to meet virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As its members have earlier agreed, their work will only focus on passing a budget, investing in capital infrastructure projects, grants-in-aid and other legislation either required to maintain existing programs or to address the COVID-19 response.

Notwithstanding the legislators’ agreement, a lawmaker has inappropriately pushed and introduced a non-COVID-19-related bill, Senate Bill 250. It’s a controversial last-minute bill proposing to drastically change Delaware’s renewable portfolio standards at unknown costs to all Delaware electric customers. We do not need another bad deal like Bloom.

The Delaware Municipal Electric Corp. (DEMEC) and its members vehemently oppose SB 250. Among other things, the bill raises the percentage of energy that must come from renewable sources, creates a convoluted “community” solar program that sets complicated rules and structures for participation and mandated power buybacks by utilities, and, in the end, will increase costs for Delaware businesses and citizens.

Kimberly Schlichting

This legislation should be opposed for the following reasons:

• Now is not the time to impose legislation without the input of customers – those who are most affected. The economy is fragile. Businesses and citizens are already struggling. It is irresponsible of the legislature to impose more costs on them now.

• Legislators made an agreement that no bills would be introduced or considered during the remainder of this legislative session, unless related to the three “money” bills, to maintaining existing programs or concerning COVID-19.

• Our legislators aren’t meeting in person, only virtually. They have not been able to provide the technical means to allow for public comment. Nor is it anticipated that they will be able to do so before June 30. This grates against the principles and spirit of open government and renders public participation and meaningful collaboration impossible.

• Three percent cost caps were included in the RPS to protect our customers. Those caps were ignored by some, resulting in Delmarva Power customers paying increased renewable energy costs upward of 19% over the last eight years. Delmarva Power customers have paid well over a billion dollars due to this consumer protection being ignored. Approval of SB 250 will remove current cost caps allowing higher costs to continue.

• There is no immediate need or reason to rush this legislation, as the current RPS isn’t due for renewal until 2025. While we are on target to meet current goals, we should wait to fulfill those goals to understand their full financial impacts before increasing mandates.

The Delaware Municipal Electric Corp. and its municipal cities and towns will continue to oppose this bill and to advocate for our customers who are ultimately responsible to pay for this costly legislation. Please call your legislators and tell them you oppose SB 250 and any motion to hear SB 250.

Kimberly Schlichting is chief operating officer and senior vice president of power supply for the Delaware Municipal Electric Corp.