The Northern Maine Renewable Energy Development Program, referred to in this section as "the program," is established to remove obstacles to the use of and to promote development of the substantial renewable energy resources in northern Maine.
Governor Mills Nominates Energy and Utilities Expert for Public Utilities Commission
Patrick Scully, former CEO of Bernstein Shur, would bring decades of experience in Maine energy, municipal and utilities law to state utilities regulator
Governor Janet Mills today nominated Patrick Scully, a leading Maine energy and utilities expert who was most recently Chief Executive Officer of Bernstein Shur, to serve a six-year term on the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Over his 36 years with Bernstein Shur, Scully was among Maine’s most knowledgeable attorneys in municipal, energy and utility regulations, with significant experience in the state’s burgeoning renewable energy sector, the issues and challenges facing Maine and its communities, and the important regulatory responsibilities of the PUC.
“Patrick Scully is among Maine’s most knowledgeable energy and utilities attorneys,” said Governor Mills. “His perspective and depth of experience will be a valuable asset to the Maine Public Utilities Commission as it pursues its mission to ensure the delivery of safe, reliable, and affordable utilities services to the people of Maine.”
“I am honored that Governor Mills has nominated me to the Maine Public Utilities Commission,”said Scully. “I am excited about the opportunity to use my experience to protect and serve the interests of consumers and utility ratepayers across Maine.”
Scully, 64, joined Bernstein Shur in 1984, was named CEO of the firm in January 2014, and retired at the end of 2019. He has degrees from Dartmouth College in biology and environmental studies and earned his law degree from University of Maine School of Law. Scully lives in Naples with his wife, Tory Ryden.
Scully’s nomination is subject to review by the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology and final confirmation by the Maine State Senate. If confirmed, Scully will replace PUC member R. Bruce Williamson, whose term ended in March.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission regulates electric, natural gas, water and telecommunications utilities to ensure Maine consumers have safe, adequate and reliable services and rates that are just and reasonable for consumers and utilities.
The Commission oversees emerging competitive markets for some of these services. The PUC’s three full-time Commissioners serve staggered terms of 6 years and make all final Commission decisions by public vote or action of the majority.
This is Governor Mills’ second nomination to the PUC. In May 2019, she nominated Phil Bartlett, former Chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, to serve as Chair of the PUC.
NextEra is blocking a major new Maine clean power transmission project
A major new transmission line intended to pipe carbon-free hydropower from Canada into the U.S. Northeast has met a powerful opponent: the world’s largest provider of renewable energy.
The 145-mile (233-kilometer), nearly $1 billion transmission line, known as New England Clean Energy Connect, broke ground in February after nearly three years of review by regulators. If completed, it would be able to import 1.2 gigawatts of electricity from the Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec. That’s enough to reduce carbon emissions in the region by 3.6 million metric tons a year, according to the project’s developer, Avangrid Inc., or about 12% compared to 2019 levels.
To an unfamiliar observer, it might seem that renewables giant NextEra Energy Inc., which supplies 22 gigawatts of clean electricity to homes and businesses in North America, would have an interest in increasing the availability of green power. However the company is also heavily invested in non-renewable energy and has a history of acting for its own benefit at the expense of the environment. More than half of NextEra’s energy-generating capacity come from nuclear reactors and plants that run on natural gas and other fossil fuels.
While the company has said little publicly about the transmission project, it’s been quietly financing a ballot initiative in Maine that could halt construction on conservation grounds. It also has yet to begin a mandatory upgrade at one of its facilities to support the surge of power onto the grid.
“Of course NextEra doesn’t want it,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at advocacy group Public Citizen. “They’ve got lots of power in the region that’s threatened.”
The project is an important part of President Joe Biden’s plan to eliminate carbon from the U.S. power system by 2035. That effort will require significantly boosting the use of clean energy, which will in turn require thousands of miles of new transmission lines to carry that energy around the country.
Though the new link will go through Maine, the power will mostly serve Massachusetts customers, lowering their monthly energy bills by as much as 4%, the developers say. NextEra’s New England assets include a nuclear facility and an oil-burning power plant, both of which would face increased competition from the influx of power. NextEra’s allies in the fight against the project include Calpine Corp. and Vistra Corp., each of which operates multiple natural gas plants in the region.
Vistra didn’t respond to requests for comment on the initiative to block the transmission line. Calpine spokesman Brett Kerr said that the company “supports the rights of Maine citizens to be heard and respects the fact that Maine voters have a constitutional right to decide on matters of statewide importance.”
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AUGUSTA—The committee overseeing a local lawmaker’s bill that would ban offshore wind development held off on a decision on whether they felt it ought to pass or not last week.
Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) proposed a bill that would halt the state from permitting any offshore wind projects over concerns about the turbine’s effects on the environment and fishing industry.
The bill has been a lightning rod in Augusta and received more than 150 pieces of testimony.
Fishermen rallied behind the bill, saying there were too many unknowns and that the wind industry would wreak havoc on their livelihoods, while opponents said it would stunt the growing wind energy industry, hurt the state’s goal to fight climate change and signal that Maine was closed for business when it came to these kinds of projects.
Last week (May 18), the Committee on Energies, Utilities and Technology held a work session on the bill, where legislators heard from the Gov. Janet Mills’ energy office and from Faulkingham.
The committee was on the cusp of voting on the bill but ended up tabling it.
Faulkingham argued that the state, which is developing a “road map” for offshore wind development as it works on a wind turbine research array, should create the road map before starting planning on the array.
“What they are doing is picking cities and projects and using the road map to fill in the blanks,” he said. “The whole thing is out of control.”
Dan Burgess, with the energy office, said that the road map would advise on projects and there would be a collaborative process. The goal is to add to the economy with these opportunities, not displace other industries.
The committee appeared ready to vote “ought not to pass” on the bill during the remote hearing, garnering a motion and a second. But the committee never ended up voting on that motion and went into a 20-minute off-camera caucus. After reemerging, the committee voted to table the bill.
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The total project cost is $5.6 million, and FAME’s contribution to the overall project will be 14%. Financing also includes a $2 million loan from Coastal Enterprises Inc., of which $800,000 will be financed by FAME and $400,000 will come from from the Maine Technology Institute. CEI will retain $800,000 and be lead lender.
SBC will begin manufacturing biochar this fall, after the pyrolactic kilns, which will be imported from Germany, are installed. The company will stockpile and source feedstock across the Penobscot Valley with local suppliers.
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