PORTLAND, Maine — Maine paper makers will get more than half of a new $3 million fund to give special energy cost rebates to large Maine manufacturers connected to the New England power grid.

In the coming year, Verso, Sappi and Catalyst will share about $1.5 million of the fund, supported by proceeds from a regional auction of carbon dioxide emissions credits that emitting electricity generators are required to buy.

Paper packaging maker Huhtamaki, in Waterville, will get about 12 percent of the funds, or $365,457, over the next year. Semiconductor manufacturers Texas Instruments and Fairchild Semiconductor will get the next-largest allotment by industry, with about 10.5 percent of the funds.

The businesses will get their annual allotment in four payments over the course of the next year, in an amount that will be taken out before any of the trust fund money goes to other residential or commercial energy-efficiency programs.

The rest of the fund is divided 50-50 to support residential and commercial or industrial efficiency programs, through the Efficiency Maine Trust.

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The amounts given to each company depended on their overall energy bills. The program generally excluded businesses in Aroostook and Washington counties, after regulators ruled that it should benefit only parts of the state where emissions credits are factored into electricity prices.

Lawmakers from those areas told the Bangor Daily News in July they were not aware of that limitation when they approved the measure, and one lawmaker said he would propose changing that during the next session. The bill overcame a veto from Gov. Paul LePage, who had proposed giving up to 55 percent of funds from the regional carbon emissions auction back to businesses.

The final version did not intend to include all areas of the state because customers on the separate northern Maine electric grid do not pay costs associated with the regional emissions auction.

McCain Foods, which has a potato processing plant in Easton, petitioned regulators to include it in the program, arguing that the law has a broader intent of lowering electricity costs for businesses across the state.

The farthest-flung recipient, Cherryfield Foods, is connected to Emera Maine’s Bangor Hydro district, which is part of the ISO-New England system. Emera’s Maine Public Service district is not connected to the wider regional grid.

The program sets aside $3 million each year through 2019, with regulators deciding each year which “energy-intensive manufacturers” are awarded the money.

If recipients spend their proceeds on energy-efficiency measures, they can get another $1 for every $3 they spend from the Efficiency Maine Trust.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.