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Maine biomass bill postponed until 2018

Discussion on a bill to boost Maine’s biomass industry has been postponed until next year, because of both time constraints and concerns over the complexity and controversial nature of the legislation.

According to the Portsmouth Press Herald, the bill’s sponsor, Senator Tom Saviello, suggested the State Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee postpone the measure until next year. The committee voted unanimously to agree with Saviello’s suggestion.

Saviello first presented recommendations based on the findings of a special study group last year. Intended to improve the economics for Maine’s struggling wood-fired plants, the recommendations have since been opposed by Governor Paul LePage and Central Maine Power Company.

The Portsmouth Press Herald article states that Maine lawmakers passed a state subsidised $13.4 million bailout bill in 2016 to aid the state’s “aging and inefficient” wood based biomass plants.

One of the recommendations that have been sketched out under the proposed new bill is to gradually increase the percentage of biomass energy that qualifies under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which obliges electricity suppliers to make up a certain share of their power sales with renewables.

Other proposals include incorporating wood fired heating systems in the RPS programme, or designating an economic development credit to reward power plants for direct contributions to the economy, such as creating jobs.

These issues will all be raised in 2018, when the subject of biomass legislation in Maine is once again debated.