Maine community renewable energy project winds down

Monday, December 14, 2015

Maine energy regulators will soon act on proposals for community-based renewable energy projects, as legal authority for a community energy pilot program winds down.

In 2009, the Maine Legislature enacted An Act To Establish the Community-based Renewable Energy Pilot Program, P.L. 2009, ch. 329.  The Act established a pilot program to provide incentives for the development of community-based renewable projects.  To qualify, projects must be “locally owned electricity generating facilities” (51% or more of the facility must be owned by “qualifying local owners”) and must not exceed 10 MW.  The Maine Public Utilities Commission was charged with administering the program, including certifying qualifying facilities.  To a community renewable energy project developer, the program offered the opportunity to win a long-term contract to sell project power to a Maine utility at predictable prices.

A 2015 law amended the community-based renewable energy program.  Among other changes, it required the Commission to perform a "viability assessment" of all projects that have been certified under the program but have not yet reached commercial operations.  For any projects the Commission determines will not be viable by December 31, 2018, the Act states that the Commission must revoke any contract awarded, though the projects will remain certified.  In September 2015, the Commission completed its viability assessment and identified approximately 21 megawatts of capacity that is available for contract awards. 

The 2015 law effectively provides that the Commission's authority to order utilities to enter into community-based renewable energy projects expires on December 31, 2015.   In light of the 21 megawatts of program capacity identified as available, on September 30, the Commission issued a request for proposals for projects seeking the remaining contract awards.

Proposals were due by November 6, 2015. According to the RFP,  the Commission will complete its evaluation of proposals and accept or reject proposals no later than December 31.

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