LePage energy chief defends efforts to reopen offshore wind bids

AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage's top energy advisor Tuesday defended efforts the governor made to restart a bid process for an offshore wind power project along Maine's coast.

More coverage: UMaine says it needs to keep wind project proposal confidential

Offshore Wind
Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

In this Sept. 20 photo, the country's first floating wind turbine, the University of Maine's 9,000-pound prototype, generates power off the coast of Castine. 

Statoil spokesman Ola Morten Aanestad

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Patrick Woodcock, the director of LePage's Energy Office, said efforts it made to allow the University of Maine to bid on the project before the Maine Public Utilities Commission was meant to protect ratepayers and the state's interests in general.

Norwegian energy giant Statoil previously had been awarded a term sheet for the project but LePage's staff objected during negotiations on an omnibus energy bill that was passed by lawmakers in July.

"The truth is that the project's benefits to Maine are ambiguous while the costs to our state are clear and real — nearly $200 million will need to be subsidized by Maine families and businesses," Woodcock said in a prepared statement Tuesday. "This is the wrong direction for developing a new industry and antithetical to improving Maine’s business climate and reducing the energy bill burdens on Maine families."

Woodcock also said that Statoil interfered in the earlier bid process preventing the the University of Maine from biding on the project.

"The fact of the matter was that the Statoil hindered the University of Maine from developing an alternative pilot project at a lower cost, and failed to provide assurances that our manufacturing sector will receive capital investments that will increase long-term employment in Maine," Woodcock said. "It would have been irresponsible for the administration to remain silent."

The Maine PUC received a bid from the university earlier in September and will be making a final decision on the contract by the end of December.

A spokesman for Statoil, based in Houston, denied the company did anything to interfere with the Univeristy of Maine in the initial bid process.

Ola Morten Aanestad said the company did not want to engage in any political discussions but did want to address Woodcock's assertions Tuesday.

Aanestad said the company's proposal, the Hywind Maine Project, was put on hold after the law change. He also refuted the company did anything to hinder competition in the market in Maine.

"Statoil welcomes the development of alternative floating concepts, as this will enhance the development of a floating market as such," Aanestad wrote in an email. "We have been cooperating with the University of Maine since 2010. The University of Maine has always been a partner to the Hywind Maine project, and still is."

Aanestad said the university did not respond to the PUC's 2011 request for proposals and also offered its support to Statoil's application.  

In 2011, Statoil was the only company to respond to the RFP.

Aanestad also noted that the university, "had full insight into our approved term sheet while responding to the reopened RFP on 30 August this year."

He went on to note that Statoil had also made "significant commitments to use Maine suppliers for the pilot project, both in the investment phase and in the operational phase of the project."

Meanwhile, Jake Ward, UMaine's vice president of innovation and economic development, tried to distance himself from Woodcock's comments that Statoil "hindered" UMaine's attempts to develop its technology.

He said the university had reached out to Statoil in the past about collaborating on a pilot project that would co-locate the two organizations' very different technologies, and bringing that proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy, which will be doling out nearly $50 million to three offshore wind development projects. Statoil was not receptive to that idea, Ward said.

"While I might not have used the word hindered, they certainly have not embraced the idea that there are more technologies that are more cost effective and could have a more long-term effect on jobs," he said, referring to Woodcock's assertions that Statoil does not make enough of a commitment to create jobs and support businesses in Maine.

Tom Welch, commissioner of the PUC, wouldn't comment on Woodcock's statement, but said, "Agencies and the government and members of the public are free to characterize things as they see fit, but we see our role as the Public Utilities Commission to apply the statutes the Legislature gives to us to the facts of the case."

 Bangor Daily News staff writer Whit Richardson contributed to this report.

sthistle@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Steve  Dosh's picture

LePage energy chief defends efforts to reopen offshore wind bids

Mainers Weds night 20:20 ? est
t y v m Scott
What wrong with free energy ?
The wind blows 2 4 x 7 x 3 6 5 in some places
hth /s , Steve

Steve  Dosh's picture

. .btw - batteries are the

. .btw - batteries are the most expensive and dangerous form of electrical energy , Bob & Bob . Just ask Boeing ® 
Claire , i sense some distrust about ME politicians on your part . If it helps any , the energy czar in ME is probably a long time State employee and a Democrat
i just took a train ride from Portland to Portland and saw literally hundreds , if not thousands of windmills . If they put one on your land out west they pay about US$1Million just to plop it down , they do
hth /s Steve
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._Boone_Pickens#Wind_power <- Is he just blowing smoke ?

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

Trust

Sorry but when it comes to this administration and the subject of clean energy, I cannot bring myself to trust their motives. They have been so staunchly in favor of keeping us tethered to the fossil fuel industry that it seems in character that they would go so far as to scuttle an opportunity just to promote, of all things, coal. Never mind that we are awash in acid rain thanks to the coal industry and that coal pellets would be in direct competition with our burgeoning wood pellet industry, the idea of introducing this to Maine seems just plain regressive. When folks started digging oil wells in Texas they were laughed at. There were not the number of cars on the roads we have today and digging wells was pretty expensive and some people could not imagine what it would be good for but somebody had vision and foresight. We could use a little of that here in Maine regarding clean energy.

 's picture

$200 million

So, Mainers were going to be asked to fork over $200 million to subsidize this expensive, risky project. LePage attempts to stop the foolishness, and he's the bad guy.

Robert McQueeney's picture

This the most expensive method of producing electricity

We are looking to spend a good deal of money on this program to provide renewable energy to Maine citizens. Ultimately, when you look at the costs of building these generators all the way thru their useful life and decommissioning, this method will prove to be more expensive than other generation methods. And we are looking at hiring an out of country company to build this system, using already scarce Maine taxpayer dollars?

Any chance we can wait until our economic health returns before we pursue something as expensive as this. We already have adequate power generation available. Please, as much as I like clean energy, let's wait until Maine has the financial where withal to do this.

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