Library filed under Offshore Wind from Maine
The University of Maine and its partner companies have offered a glimpse into their offshore wind project proposal, releasing information about plans to supply some power directly to Monhegan Island, the companies working on the project and more specifics on its technology.
One thing utility customers are eager to see is how much they'll have to pay to support the project. That figure likely won't be released until next month. Price was a sticking point for LePage's administration when it came to Statoil's project, which it said would have pushed $200 million in costs onto utility customers over 20 years. LePage, called it a bad deal for the state.
Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, released a news statement Tuesday afternoon that reaffirmed the governor's opposition. “The Administration has been perfectly clear through the regulatory process that the term-sheet offered by Statoil was ironclad in its cost – placing a $200 million burden on Mainers by way of increasing electric costs," according to the statement. "Additionally, the corporation was ambiguous in its commitment to growing Maine’s economy."
“As a general principle, the more information that’s in the public view, the better, because people may have interesting, important things to say to us,” said PUC Chairman Thomas Welch in an interview after PUC deliberations took place in Hallowell.
The UMaine partnership's lawyer, Tony Buxton, said the proposal was filed as a confidential document in keeping with the practices of all other PUC bidders, including Statoil, and would be made public if and when a power contract is awarded by the PUC. Buxton pointed out that the university project is in competition for federal energy funds with six national deep water wind proposals, including Statoil.
Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association: "I was surprised that the university's application was confidential, from top to bottom. It doesn't seem to be the most transparent way. How is the general public, the industry and policy makers to know what to support?" Payne said he also expects UMaine's power contract proposal to be well above market rates.
When a proposal to get the state's electric ratepayers to pay higher-than-market prices for power from an experimental offshore wind project comes sealed from public view, it's natural to wonder why. That the proposal comes from a partnership involving the University of Maine, a taxpayer-funded institution, makes it even more curious. The public deserves to know what it may be buying, and competitors need to know that the process is fair.
"Given the risk and uncertainty created by LD 1472, Statoil is therefore preparing to put the Hywind Maine Project on hold, while we continue to assess the changes made to the law, the total risk picture and progress plan going forward. We will keep the option open to re-initiate project activity if a [power purchase agreement] can be concluded according to the term sheet, and the total risk picture in Maine is acceptable," the company wrote in its letter to the PUC.
The truth is that the project's benefits to Maine are ambiguous, while the costs to our state are clear and real -- nearly $200 million will need to be subsidized by Maine families and businesses. This is the wrong direction for developing a new industry and antithetical to improving Maine's business climate and reducing the energy bill burdens on Maine families.
The decision did not please Gov. Paul LePage, who blasted it in a release Thursday afternoon. "Today's decision by the PUC and any policy that raises electricity costs is irresponsible. Maine has the 12th-highest energy costs in the country and this vote forces Mainers to pay even higher prices for the next 20 years," LePage said.
The Maine Public Utility Commission today approved the terms of a project proposal by Norwegian energy giant Statoil to build a $120 million deepwater wind turbine demonstration project in the Gulf of Maine. Commission members voted 2-1 in favor of the proposal, but placed several conditions on their approval that Statoil must meet.
Statoil submitted a proposal last year to the PUC that included the rate of 29 cents per kilowatt hour, roughly double what Maine household customers now pay for energy and delivery. In its new proposal, Statoil trims the rate to 27 cents/kwh. That's still well above market rates and would total $186 million over the life of the 20-year contract.