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Jackson A. Parker is the chairman and CEO of Reed & Reed Inc. in Woolwich.
In spite of all the debate about energy in our state and nation, most Mainers agree on the objectives: We want affordable, reliable, and Maine-made clean energy to power our homes and businesses. In Maine right now there is one opportunity that can help us achieve those objectives by providing affordable, clean and renewable energy that doesn’t rely on volatile and dirty fuel from some other part of the world.
A wind farm, called King Pine, has been proposed for an area in Aroostook County northwest of Houlton. It would be connected to our power grid by a new transmission line. The Maine Legislature passed a law to encourage this type of investment in renewable power and grid upgrades in northern Maine, as the region has never had the infrastructure necessary to unlock its potential until now – and given the skyrocketing energy prices we are all experiencing, it could not have come at a better time.
King Pine Wind would generate enough zero-emissions renewable energy to meet the needs of the equivalent of approximately 450,000 residential electricity customers. The cost of the wind power will save Mainers money on day one by costing less than the wholesale cost of power, and a recent study showed that adding resources like King Pine would lower energy market prices and provide significant cost savings for consumers.
Maine and the rest of New England suffer from high energy costs largely because we are so exposed to the volatility of international fossil fuel markets. The cost of the largest sources of our heat and transportation – oil – and our electricity – natural gas – can increase dramatically and suddenly, as we’re experiencing now, due to factors like a war in Europe or global inflation. The only way to avoid these price spikes is to find power sources that are local, inflation-proof, and don’t fluctuate in price due to events half a world away.
King Pine is exactly that type of resource. Further, the benefits are not guesswork, as a new Maine Public Utilities Commission report shows clean energy projects like King Pine are providing meaningful savings to Mainer customers right now. Between December 2021 and November 2022, existing long-term contracts for renewable power saved Maine ratepayers nearly $14 million.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission selected King Pine and the associated transmission line after a robust competitive solicitation. It also explored the possibility of partnering with another state to spread the transmission cost. Fortuitously, in December Massachusetts indicated it is interested in participating, following a review of the benefits by a state agency.
Putting our energy dollars into local projects will keep our money at home, allowing Mainers and Maine companies to help us make our important and also cost-effective clean energy transition. Building wind and transmission in northern Maine will put Maine people to work, bring tens of millions of dollars into communities through property taxes and community benefit agreements, and create work for years to come for a wide range of Maine businesses.
With our company having built nearly all of Maine’s wind power projects, we have seen firsthand the economic impacts for local businesses, the job creation and skill training opportunities these projects create. As a Franklin County business owner once said to me, “You’re our economic stimulus plan”.
These wind and transmission projects will undergo a number of regulatory reviews over the next couple years. Maine should seize this momentous opportunity and move these projects forward promptly, and help move our state toward a more affordable, prosperous, and clean future.