Earlier this month debate was sparked when Maine Aqua Ventis (MAV) submitted a proposal, to develop an offshore wind farm, to the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
MAV, a University of Maine consortium, sought to keep the terms of its proposal confidential unlike previous bids for the project. Seeing this confidentiality as unfair, CLF and others filed letters urging the PUC to make the terms of the proposal public. As a result, on October 8th, the PUC agreed and ordered that portions of the MAV proposal should be made public.
This victory is a significant step toward a fair and thorough public process, especially in light of the history behind the proposal.
Over a year ago, the Norwegian energy company, Statoil, responded to a PUC request for offshore wind farm proposals by submitting their own. This proposal was then reviewed as required by Maine’s Ocean Energy Act. The PUC scrutinized the Statoil proposal for months, requiring revisions and modifications to make the proposal as advantageous as possible for Mainers. At the end of the process, the PUC approved the term sheet for the Statoil project, while Statoil continued work to obtain all the necessary permits.
Despite this progress, Governor LePage opposed the Statoil project. He appealed to the Maine legislature, which resulted in a law ordering the PUC to reopen the bid process – this time with a shorter review period.
The newly opened bid process allowed MAV to submit a competing and confidential bid.
However, CLF and other organizations raised objections to the shortened review process and bid confidentiality. Due to these objections, the PUC decided to extend the review process and make portions of the MAV bid public – putting the bid under the same scrutiny the Statoil proposal received.
The PUC must now decide by the end of the year whether to give MAV a power purchase agreement, which would set the rate for which the utility would be paid for its offshore wind power. Although Statoil has already received a term sheet, but had not received an official power purchase agreement by the time the process was reopened.
The power purchase agreement is necessary to allow the winning organization to be eligible for federal Department of Energy grants.
For over a decade, CLF has advocated for properly-sited offshore wind development, as a means to tap into a vast, renewable, clean energy source. The technology to harness offshore wind is in its infancy, and with two competing bids, Maine has an auspicious chance to be an international leader in the clean energy field. As it now stands, the PUC’s ruling will allow for the most complete and thorough review of the MAV proposal, consistent with the criteria in Maine’s Ocean Energy Act.