PUC approves largest green energy purchase in Maine history

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday approved 17 renewable energy projects for long-term contracts, representing in the largest procurement of renewable energy in Maine’s history.

Based on the project bids, the projects would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 500,000 tons per year while helping the state achieve its renewable energy portfolio goals, the commission said.

“Today’s announcement is a historic step forward in Maine’s effort to embrace renewable energy, create good paying green-collar jobs, diversify and expand our economy, and combat the threat of climate change," Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said.

The projects include solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects, all in Maine. Together, they would account for more than 500 megawatts of electricity. That's roughly half of what Maine Yankee nuclear power plant produced before it shut down.

The projects are expected to create more than 450 jobs during construction and initial capital spending with Maine-based entities is expected to be more than $145 million.

The selected bidders will enter into 20-year contracts with Central Maine Power Company and Versant Power, officials said. Final contracts are subject to approval by the commission and will be reviewed annually, officials said.

The long-term power purchases were required by legislation sponsored by Democratic Sen. Eloise Vitelli, of Arrowsic, that boosted Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard from 40% to 80% by 2030, and set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The first-year prices for energy from the new projects are competitive, ranging between 2.9 and 4.2 cents per kilowatt hour, PUC Chairman Philip Bartlett II said.

"Additionally, these projects are expected to provide substantial benefits to the Maine economy by creating jobs and making significant local investments,” he said.