AUGUSTA – On Wednesday, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, urged the Maine Public Utilities Committee to give final approval to the winning transmission and distribution bids for the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program. President Jackson filed a public comment with the Maine PUC following Massachusetts’s commitment to help finance the Northern Maine Transmission line and purchase power through the program.
“The time has come to get these projects off the grounds and begin to unleash the power of affordable, homegrown Aroostook County energy. All of the demands put forward by the PUC have been met; all that’s left is for the PUC to greenlight the winning projects,” said President Jackson. “Mainers are counting on lawmakers to do everything we can to lower energy costs and stabilize the market for the future. The Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program can play a key role in delivering significant relief.”
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 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. These conversations led to the inclusion of language in a new Massachusetts law allowing the state to purchase power through the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program.
In December, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) submitted a beneficial determination letter to the Maine PUC indicating the state’s intention of purchasing up to 40 percent of the energy created by the entire project.
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.