AUGUSTA – On Monday, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took the first step toward implementing a new law from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to create good-paying renewable energy jobs, lower energy costs and boost economic development in Aroostook County. The PUC issued a request for proposals for potential renewable energy projects, and the development and operation of a high-voltage transmission line connecting northern Maine to ISO-New England – the regional power grid.
“In Aroostook County, we have near-perfect weather conditions for renewable energy generation, vast natural resources and a work ethic that is simply unmatched. The challenge is getting the energy generated in northern Maine, like biomass, to the rest of the state and country. Connecting northern Maine to the rest of the country with a new transmission line would be a game-changer,” said President Jackson. “For too long, folks living in northern Maine have been left behind when it comes to renewable energy development and the widespread economic opportunities that follow. That ends with this transmission line. As the PUC takes this first step, I’m excited about what the future holds for Aroostook County. ”
The new law – LD 1710, “An Act To Require Prompt and Effective Use of the Renewable Energy Resources of Northern Maine” – creates the Northern Maine Renewable Energy Program to remove obstacles hindering renewable energy development, such as biomass, wind and solar, in northern Maine. It also directs the PUC to issue a request for proposals for a new transmission line to connect Aroostook County to the New England power grid. Proposals must prioritize and protect ratepayers to move forward.
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.
“By connecting Aroostook County to the New England power grid, we can attract renewable energy companies to Maine, create good-paying jobs and jump-start economic development in the County, and help the state meet its renewable energy goals,” said President Jackson. “Put simply – it’s a win for everyone.”
Removing barriers to renewable energy development would also boost other rural industries, like the forest products industry. For example, a biomass facility would provide loggers with a market for chips and other waste products all while creating good-paying jobs, generating energy and removing waste from Maine’s forests.
LD 1710 took effect earlier this year after receiving strong unanimous support in the Maine Legislature and being signed into law by the governor.
The deadline to submit proposals for the transmission line is March 1, 2022. More information regarding the request for proposals and the selection process is available here.