In a Nov. 13 order, the members of the Maine Public Utilities Commission extended the termination date of Pisgah Mountain LLC’s certification as a Community-Based Renewable Energy Project and the required commercial operations date contained in Pisgah’s long-term contract with Emera Maine to Dec. 31, 2017.
The community energy program was established by the state legislature in 2009 to encourage the sustainable development of community-based renewable energy. The projects must generate electricity from an eligible renewable resource. These projects must be “locally owned electricity generating facilities,” which means that 51% or more of the facility must be owned by “qualifying local owners.” The facilities must not exceed 10 MW and no single transmission and distribution service territory may exceed 25 MW of installed capacity unless approved by the utility and the commission.
The total installed generating capacity of all program participants in the pilot program combined may not exceed 50 MW. By statute, the pilot program will terminate on Dec. 31, 2015.
In October 2011, the commission certified the Pisgah Mountain project, a 9-MW wind energy facility located in Clifton, Maine, as a community-based renewable energy project. At that time, the commission issued an order directing Bangor Hydro (now Emera Maine) to enter into a long-term power purchase agreement with the Pisgah Mountain project for a 20-year term at a price of $0.093 per kilowatt-hour produced. In December 2012, the agreement between Bangor Hydro and Pisgah was executed. Section 2.4 provides that the agreement shall terminate in the event that the project has not been placed in service on or before three years from the date of the agreement.
In August 2014, Pisgah filed a request to extend the in-service termination dates of its certification as a Community-Based Renewable Energy Project and of its long-term contract entered into with Emera Maine to allow time for the resolution of a land use appeal proceeding. In December 2014, the commission extended the termination dates of Pisgah’s certification and of its long-term contract to July 31, 2015. On March 31 of this year, Pisgah filed a report informing the commission that it had prevailed in the Law Court appeal and requesting an additional extension of its certification and contract to Dec. 31, 2016.
On June 22, the legislature passed an amendment to this program that directs the commission to review all certified program participant projects that have not yet reached commercial operations to determine whether the projects are reasonably likely to achieve commercial operations within a three-year period. For those projects determined not to be viable within the three-year period, the 2015 amendment requires the commission to revoke any contract award, but the project may still remain certified.
On July 21, the commission issued an order extending Pisgah’s certification date to Dec. 31, 2015, but declining to extend the commercial operations date contained in the Emera Maine contract pending completion of the viability assessment as required by the 2015 amendment. The commission then determined that the Pisgah project is reasonably likely to achieve commercial operations within a three-year period. On Oct. 9, Pisgah filed a request to extend both the certification termination date and the contract in-service date to Dec. 31, 2017.
Said the Nov. 13 decision: “The Commission has completed the viability assessment required by the 2015 Amendment and determined that the Pisgah project is likely to reach commercial operations within the required three-year time frame, thereby allowing Pisgah to retain its certification and the previously approved contract award. Currently, Pisgah’s certification expires on December 31, 2015 and its contract with Emera Maine has a required commercial operations date of December 4, 2015. Pisgah has stated that it anticipates a commercial operations date of December 31, 2016, but has requested that both the certification and contract deadlines be extended an additional year to December 31, 2017 to allow for sufficient time to resolve any unforeseeable events that would delay commercial operations. Section 4 of the 2015 Amendment requires that all community-based renewable energy projects that have been selected for a long-term contract must become operational and commence generating electricity by December 31, 2018. Accordingly, we hereby extend the termination date of Pisgah Mountain, LLC’s certification as a Community-Based Renewable Energy Project to December 31, 2017 and approve a modification to the contract with Emera Maine to extend the required commercial operations date to December 31, 2017.”