AUGUSTA — A bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to pave the way for good-paying renewable energy jobs in northern Maine, earned unanimous approval in the Maine Senate on Tuesday.
“For too long, northern Maine has been left behind when it comes to renewable energy production and the good-paying jobs and the widespread economic benefits that come with the development of these projects. This proposal lays out a path to eliminate the longstanding barriers to energy production that exist in Aroostook County,” said President Jackson. “The truth is — there is so much untapped potential for renewable energy in northern Maine, and we can’t afford to let it go to waste.”
LD 1710, “An Act To Require Prompt and Effective Use of the Renewable Energy Resources of Northern Maine” creates the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program, which would remove obstacles that stand in the way of renewable energy development in northern Maine. This includes requiring the PUC to issue requests for proposals to build a connection line to link Aroostook County to the ISO-New England grid.
Sen. Trey Stewart (R-Aroostook), who serves as the Ranking Republican on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, made the motion to pass the amended bill saying, “The Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development makes good sense for my constituents in Aroostook County and all ratepayers in Maine, which is why I was pleased to support the bill in Committee. A transmission tie to Northern Maine utilizing existing utility rights of way for new renewable generation — that doesn’t pick winners or losers among types of generation – will move our state toward our renewable energy goals, grow jobs where we need them and be an economic boon for our State.”
LD 1710 would likely bring significant economic investment to northern Maine due to the climate and geographical make-up of the region. Developers agree that these conditions indicate Aroostook County’s significant wind potential.
Renewable energy projects in Aroostook County face unique challenges due to the lack of access to the ISO New England grid. Unlike the rest of the state, Aroostook and part of Piscataquis County access electricity through the Canadian grid in New Brunswick. As a result, the energy created in northern Maine must go through the Canadian power grid in order to be sold to consumers through the ISO-New England grid or any other American power grid. The wheeling charges associated with this process make investment in renewable energy production in northern Maine costly and unattractive. Aroostook County has tremendous resources that will help all of Maine achieve its climate goals, and, until now, those resources have been inaccessible.
“I appreciate that Senator Jackson and the bill cosponsors are pursuing more renewable procurements and applaud their effort to site them in the relatively untapped and well-suited Northern Maine region,” said Paul Towle, President & CEO of Aroostook Partnership. “As this committee continues to seek renewable generation expansion opportunities, it’s great to see that projects are being sought in Northern Maine where land is more available, residents are generally more receptive to development, and developers stand ready to invest. Northern Maine welcomes this opportunity.”
In 2019, Gov. Janet Mills established aggressive renewable energy goals as a part of the Maine Climate Council’s Maine Won’t Wait plan. It aims to have 80 percent of Maine’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2030 with a goal of having 100 percent of Maine’s electricity served by 2050. Aroostook County is at a disadvantage due to the lack of access to the ISO-New England grid.
LD 1710 will now go to the House for additional votes.