AUGUSTA — The Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee unanimously approved legislation from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to support Maine’s emerging wood-based energy industry on Wednesday. LD 912, “An Act To Establish the Wood Energy Investment Program” would create a new Wood Energy Investment Program to provide incentives and low- or no-interest loans to businesses that produce energy using biomass.
“The bill looks to Maine’s sustainable forest resources to meet growing energy needs,” said President Jackson. “LD 912 would strengthen the existing forest products industry, support economic development in rural communities and lower energy costs for Mainers. This is a win-win scenario for our state.”
This legislation responds to recommendations made by the Legislature’s Commission to Study the Economic, Environmental and Energy Benefits of the Maine Biomass Industry 2016. The commission outlined the need for further support of research and development projects to strengthen the biomass industry in rural Maine and move existing projects in this phase to the marketplace. This program would help wood-based energy companies get off the ground in the early phase of their operation.
Over the past two decades, there has been a significant shift away from forest products manufacturing in Maine to production around the globe. Five mills have closed since 2014 citing high energy costs as part of the problem. The bill simultaneously addresses high energy cost and provides new economic opportunities for a vital industry.
“By establishing a wood energy investment fund, Maine would be supporting not only the forest products industry, but the entire economy of Maine,” testified Paul Towle, President, and CEO of the Aroostook Partnership, at the public hearing.
The bill has received support from the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, the Forest Products Council, and Jackson Laboratory, as well as Natural Resources Council of Maine and the Nature Conservancy.
LD 912 will now go before the full legislature for votes.