AUGUSTA — A measure from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to provide Legislative approval for the construction of a transmission line connecting northern Maine to ISO-New England cleared the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee with bipartisan support on Tuesday. The vote was 7-4.
“Connecting Aroostook County to the ISO-New England could be a game-changer for the region. Not only would it support quality, good-paying jobs, but it would also grow our supply of cheap, clean, renewable energy — energy that is desperately needed,” said President Jackson. “I’m grateful to the bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Legislature’s Energy Committee who voted in favor of this proposal. It brings us one step closer to making the Northern Maine Transmission Line a reality.”
LD 924, “Resolve, to Provide Legislative Approval of Northern Maine Transmission Infrastructure” simply sought legislative approval for the construction of the high-voltage transmission line as required by state law. The project will also need to get the appropriate permits from regulatory agencies before construction can begin.
Earlier this year, the Maine Public Utilities Commission formally approved transmission and distribution bids for the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program from LS Power Base and Longroad Energy’s King Pine. Both projects had been initially approved by the PUC in October of 2022, with final approval hinging on the financial commitment from an outside entity, to ensure costs remain as low as possible for Maine ratepayers.
In December, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) submitted a beneficial determination letter to the Maine Public Utilities Commission indicating the state’s intention of purchasing up to 40 percent of the energy created by the entire project. President Jackson worked with partners in Massachusetts to include language in a new Massachusetts law that would allow the Commonwealth to purchase power through the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program.
The project is expected to alleviate issues around renewable energy generation in Aroostook County. Renewable energy projects in Aroostook County face significant economic challenges due to the lack of connection to the New England power grid. Energy generated in northern Maine, which includes Aroostook County and part of Piscataquis County, must go through the Canadian power grid in New Brunswick to be sold to consumers through any American power grid. The wheeling charges associated with this process are cost-prohibitive, making energy development in northern Maine unattractive despite the region’s ideal conditions for renewable energy generation.
LD 924 is supported by the Aroostook Partnership, the Associated General Contractors of Maine, the Maine Chamber of Commerce, the Public Advocate, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Nature Conservancy. The measure faces additional votes in both the House and Senate.