Baker aide urges Avangrid to stay the course

Card supports existing contracts but pledges to bring parties together

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER’S top energy aide urged the offshore wind developer Avangrid to abandon efforts to reopen its electricity contract with the state and abide by the existing terms.

Avangrid has asked the Department of Public Utilities for a one-month delay in approving the contract, saying the time is needed to work out new terms because the 1,200-megawatt Commonwealth Wind project is not viable without an adjustment in the electricity price.

The company, which has said its project has been rocked by inflation, interest rate hikes, and supply chain difficulties, is expected to file a brief on the issue with the DPU on Monday.

Bethany Card, the governor’s secretary of energy and environmental affairs, released a letter she sent to Avangrid Sunday night (embargoed until 7 a.m. Monday morning) urging the company to give up its efforts to renegotiate the contract and focus on taking advantage of federal and state programs to reduce the cost of the project.

“While the current macroeconomic conditions are challenging and many in the industry face inflationary pressures, action at the federal and state level have been made to directly address these effects,” Card wrote. “For example, the Federal Inflation Reduction Act expanded tax credits for offshore wind developers and the guidance for these key provisions are in development at the Department of Treasury. We are committed to working with you and other offshore wind developers to take advantage of all the federal incentives available to facilitate the growth of offshore wind.”

Card also urged Avangird to stay the course with the existing contract.  “I encourage Commonwealth Wind to devote every resource at its disposal and consider all opportunities available so this project can proceed under the current contracts and I will encourage all pertinent parties to meet to understand the specifics of the financial challenges,” Card wrote.

Craig Gilvarg, an Avangrid spokesman, issued a statement saying the company agrees with the Baker administration “on the need to bring all parties to the table to collectively address economic headwinds impacting all major infrastructure projects.” He added: “Avangrid remains committed to working with regulators and stakeholders to ensure that this project is economically viable, helps the New England region address the significant reliability challenges it is facing this winter and in the years to come, and advances our shared goal of a clean energy future.”

The state’s other major offshore wind developer, Mayflower Wind, backed away from its efforts to reopen its contract but pledged to bring information forward illustrating the financial challenges of building its offshore wind farm with the current pricing scheme.