Maine enacts biomass energy support

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Maine has adopted a new law to support the state's biomass energy industry.  Governor Paul LePage has signed LD 1676, An Act To Establish a Process for the Procurement of Biomass Resources, as emergency legislation.  As a result, the bill has been enacted into law as Public Law, Chapter 483, from the 127th Maine Legislature.

The Maine State House.

The bill directs the Maine Public Utilities Commission to initiate a competitive solicitation as soon as practicable.  That solicitation will ask for proposals for 2-year contracts for up to 80 megawatts of biomass resources.  To qualify, a biomass resource must be a source of electrical generation fueled by wood, wood waste or landfill gas that produces energy that may be physically delivered to the ISO New England or Northern Maine Independent System Administrator markets.  A resource must also operate at least at a 50% capacity for 60 days prior to the initiation of a competitive solicitation and continues to operate at that capacity except for planned and forced outages.

The law gives the Commission some direction on how to select proposals for contracting.  It requires the Commission to seek to ensure, "to the maximum extent possible" that a contract provides benefits to ratepayers as well as in-state economic development benefits, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, promotes fuel diversity, and supports or improves grid reliability.

The costs of the contracts, other than above-market costs, and all direct financial benefits from the contracts must be allocated to ratepayers according to Maine's statute on allocation of costs and benefits of long-term energy contracts.  Above-market costs will be paid for from a cost recovery fund created by the new law, which allocates up to $13.4 million from the unappropriated surplus of the state's General Fund. 

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