July 4, 2013

$120M Maine offshore energy project put on hold

Statoil, a Norwegian oil company, cites a new Maine law as the reason, because it overturns an agreement on electric rates the company will be allowed to charge.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Norwegian company Statoil had planned to install floating wind turbines off Boothbay Harbor that would be similar to this Hywind test turbine, now producing power off Norway.

Trude Refsahl / Statoil

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Read Statoil's letter to the Maine Public Utilities Commission

“We ran out of options,” said Alfond, who voted against the change. But several Democrats sided with Republicans to ensure passage of the larger energy bill, which was intended to reduce power costs to Mainers.

Lawmakers finalized the deal on June 26, and the governor wrote a letter urging the Senate to override his veto. It did so unanimously. The next day, Republican senators wearing UMaine ties posed for pictures in the Senate chamber.

Democratic leaders said the bill was a poison pill for Statoil.

“(Reopening the bid process) made no business sense at all for our state,” Alfond said. “It sends a terrible signal to the rest of the country and world that Maine was changing the rules of the game midstream. Unfortunately, some of our worst fears have come true.”

Alfond said that he and Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, were contacted by Statoil on Wednesday morning.

Nordli, in his letter to the PUC, said Statoil would re-evaluate the project this fall.

Woodcock said the governor had several concerns about the Statoil contract, including its rate agreement and the “lack of (a) tangible benefit.” He said the contract was loaded with “intentions, but no specifics” for job creation.

Woodcock also has argued that UMaine’s project wasn’t ready to send to bid two years ago, when Statoil presented its project for the PUC’s review, as required by the Ocean Energy Act.

He said giving UMaine’s project another opportunity is good for Maine ratepayers because it creates competition between two different technologies and perhaps would result in lower rates for offshore wind power.

Many renewable-energy advocates feared that reopening the bid would deal a significant blow to the state’s offshore wind industry.

In emails provided to lawmakers after the governor’s veto, several in the energy industry worried that the state could lose an opportunity to become a pioneer if Statoil leaves.

“If they undo the (contract with Statoil), it may never be redone, with the university or anyone else,” wrote Stephen Von Vogt, president of Maine Marine Composites.

Kathleen Redmond-Miller, Statoil’s manager for the Hywind project, wrote that the university is already positioned to provide a “crucial research role” in Hywind, but could lose that opportunity if Statoil pulls out.

“This decision would slam the door shut on a $120 million investment in Maine, and it would also send the signal to the global development community that Maine is not open for business for renewable energy development,” she wrote.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:


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