AUGUSTA — Today, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, lauded the commitment from Massachusetts filed last week to help finance a Northern Maine Transmission line and purchase power through the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program.
“Massachusetts’ commitment to provide financial support for the proposed Northern Maine Transmission Line marks a critical step in the right direction,” said President Jackson. “All that’s left is for the Maine PUC to give final approval to the two projects so we can unleash the economic potential of Aroostook County and provide affordable and reliable homegrown renewable energy to the good people of Maine.”
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.
In October, the Maine PUC tentatively awarded transmission and distribution bids for the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program — a program created by legislation put forward by President Jackson — to LS Power Base and Longroad Energy’s King Pine. Final approval for the projects hinges on financial commitment from an outside entity, like Massachusetts, to ensure costs remain as low as possible for Maine ratepayers.
Following the creation of the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program, President Jackson reached out to partners in other states, including legislative leaders in Massachusetts, recognizing the need for regional partnerships to secure the best deal for Maine ratepayers. He met with Massachusetts Senate President Karen Spilka, Speaker of the House Ronald Mariano and the Chairs of the Massachusetts Legislatures’ Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy — State Representative Jeffery Roy and State Senator Michael Barrett — to secure the inclusion of language into a new Massachusetts law allowing the state to purchase power through the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program.
The new law — An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind — authorizes MA DOER to “coordinate with one or more New England states undertaking competitive solicitations to consider projects for long-term clean energy generation, transmission or capacity.” It also required MA DOER and the Massachusetts Attorney General to determine whether proposed projects meet the “beneficial standards” outlined in the new law no later than December 31, 2022.
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. The progress on this project will help in alleviating these long-standing challenges.