Some have suggested the proposed project to build CMP’s New England Clean Energy Connect would be good for Maine’s forests. As a small woodlot owner and winner of multiple forest management awards, I say that is far from the truth because they ignored what biomass management does to improve the forest.

Simply stated, the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) would damage Maine’s forests by harming the biomass sector. Let me explain.

The biomass power plants operated by ReEnergy have been an integral part of the state’s forest products sector since 1989 in Eustis and 1992 in Livermore Falls. These plants are an important end-market for more than 600,000 tons of in-state mill and forest residue and help to keep our forests sustainably managed and healthy.  And the two plants are incredibly important to the local economies because they spend more than $30 million per year in operational expenses and fuel locally, which is multiplied throughout the local rural economies in my district.

If CMP’s NECEC project were to move forward as proposed, it would cause new constraints on the transmission system that would limit these plants’ ability to deliver power into the grid. This would lead to substantial revenue losses, and thus compromise their ability to continue to operate.

The anticipated grid congestion would particularly affect other renewable technologies with material variable costs, such as biomass energy, because these projects are more vulnerable to curtailment or shutdown due to adverse market conditions, disruptions or delivery constraints.

An energy market expert, Tanya Bodell, testified to the Maine Public Utilities Commission that “Maine’s generation fleet, including biomass and hydroelectric facilities, would suffer considerable financial harm due to NECEC’s subsidized energy sales into Maine. As a result, NECEC could cause job losses to hundreds of Maine residents and certain towns could lose millions of dollars in property tax revenue.”

An analysis by Energyzt determined that with the inclusion of the NECEC and the corresponding delivery of 1200 MW of subsidized Canadian power, the transmission interface between Maine and New Hampshire would become congested at least 10 percent above what they’re already seeing because of congestion at the Maine/New Hampshire interface. When transmission lines are congested, generating resources behind the obstruction (in this case, in Maine) are required to reduce or eliminate their production in order to maintain a balanced system. (1) These frequent forced curtailments would come without warning and would create a substantial disruption to operations.

Some think the NECEC may well make it easier for renewable energy sources. But a recent report commissioned by CMP (4) predicts a huge financial loss in the next 15 years for the renewable industry. I fully expect the industry will not be able to absorb these losses and will be negatively impacted by the project.

It is clear, if the NECEC is built, Maine’s biomass industry and renewable energy generally would be devastated because of capacity interconnection problems on the ISO-New England grid.

Two reports support my observations: the Governor’s Energy Office entitled “Analysis of the Energy & Environmental Economics of Maine’s Biomass Industry”and “Forest Opportunity Roadmap / Maine Wood Energy”. )

The opening statement of one report says “Wood for energy production – electricity, heating and combined heat and power – is a critical part of Maine’s forest industry.” The second report says ”the biomass electricity market can provide a range of energy security, economic development, job creation, and forest management benefits to the state of Maine.”

Additionally, those that support the NECEC fail to recognize how important biomass operations can be used to improve the forest. These operations allow for the removal of low grade, unmarketable wood. The removal, called timber stand improvement, provides growing space for high value trees.

It is clear that the NECEC would harm the forests by hobbling the biomass sector as an end-market for forest and mill residue, it will harm other renewable energy generators in Maine and significantly curtail any timber stand improvement forest operations.

The New England Clean Energy Connect is a bad deal for Maine, and needs to be rejected at the ballot box in November with a “Yes” vote.

— Special to the Press Herald


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