AUGUSTA — Today, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, introduced legislation to facilitate renewable energy production in rural Maine and explore ways to connect Aroostook County to ISO New England at a series of public hearings.
“Far too often, the people of northern Maine are left behind when it comes to energy costs, access to high-paying jobs and more. This proposal is a win on several fronts: incentive for energy generation facilities in northern Maine, lower energy costs for consumers, job creation, and job creation,” said President Jackson. “It’s time to connect our region to the ISO New England grid and take a strong step forward for the future of Aroostook County.”
The first bill — LD 1710, “An Act To Require Prompt and Effective Use of the Renewable Energy Resources of Northern Maine” — received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. It 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.
“The high costs of energy in Aroostook County, including costs of heating oil in the brutal winter months, continues to make it harder for folks to make a living in our area of the state,” said President Jackson. “With so much potential for renewable energy projects in this corner of the state, it’s critical that we take action and seize this economic and environmental opportunity.”
The second bill — LD 1698, An Act To Authorize a General Fund Bond Issue To Create a Public-Private Partnership To Create Biomass Energy Facilities in Aroostook County and To Connect Aroostook County to ISO New England — received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. The bond proposal before the committee would provide $30 million in funding to leverage public and private investment in an array of generation facilities in Aroostook County and connect ISO New England Connect to the isolated northern Maine power grid.
Right now, renewable projects in Aroostook County have to use the Canadian grid. The wheeling charges associated with using the Canadian grid make investment in energy generation projects more costly.
LD 1710 and LD 1698 face additional work sessions in committee.