Maine has long been one of the leaders in biomass development in the U.S. Now, the Pine Tree State is taking another step forward in the advancement of biomass with a new law designed to boost the state’s industry.
In April, Governor Paul LePage signed into law “An Act to Establish a Process for the Procurement of Biomass Resources,” which will inject up to $13.4 million into the state’s coffers for purchasing power produced by biomass energy.
This action comes after a long, drawn-out decline in the state’s biomass industry thanks to falling energy prices, expiring contracts, and surrounding states cutting out incentives to use biomass energy that was formerly purchased from Maine.
Two plants have already closed down in 2016, and others are on the brink of following suit. But this new act should stimulate the biomass economy through renewed and new power purchase agreements that further the impact biomass has on the state’s power generation plan.
Specifically, the law “provides an allocation to pay above-market costs of contracts for energy or contracts for differences for the procurement of up to 80 megawatts of biomass resources,” and allots $13.4 million for the task.
Other states with struggling biomass industries can learn from Maine. What this law shows is that a state must first have a solid commitment to purchasing energy from biomass plants. Without such a commitment – and the funds to support it – there is no long-term prospect for biomass providers, who would then have to rely on the uncertainty of selling energy to private utilities or even to surrounding states.
And as Maine has shown, depending on neighboring states to provide financial incentives that make purchasing biomass attractive is unreliable.
Biomass can provide a significant boost to a state’s power matrix. Fuel prices will not stay at their current levels forever; over time, they will rise, and as they do, biomass production will become more economically attractive.
Plus, if regulations tighten following a potential Democratic victory in the November election, the carbon-neutral status of biomass will make it even more attractive to suppliers looking to stay on the right side of regulators.
When biomass breaks into the mainstream, Maine will be one of the first states to benefit, thanks to laws like the one that was just passed in April.