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Energy Director questions Offshore Wind Project's costs to consumers

Hywind offshore wind projectAUGUSTA – On Wednesday, Patrick Woodcock submitted comments to the Maine Public Utilities Commission regarding the Statoil North America, Inc. proposal for a long-term contract with Maine utilities for the development of an offshore wind project. In those comments, Woodcock raises concerns relative to the cost passed on to Maine consumers and overall economic benefit to the State of Maine.

Described as the Hywind offshore wind pilot project, Statoil North America, Inc. requests Maine ratepayers to absorb above market electricity rates totaling $203 million to subsidize the project. Annual costs to Mainers for this pilot project are estimated to total more than $10 million over a 20 year period, at a time when Maine ratepayers are already paying 24 percent above the national average for electricity.

“First and foremost, this Administration seeks to reduce high electricity costs to Maine families. Our energy costs are among the highest in the nation and if this project adds to that burden I have questions as to how economically viable it is for the State of Maine.”

Furthermore, Woodcock states that Statoil did not prove significant investments would occur in Maine-based manufacturing facilities directly related to the project.

“While this office acknowledges that Statoil has committed to employing 150 persons during the peak construction period, as well as the development of an operations center in Maine, the assurances of the development of manufacturing assets in Maine are tenuous,” wrote Woodcock.   “This office appreciates the intent of the supplier to invest in Maine companies for the development of this project. However, the Ocean Energy Act is explicit that the Commissioner must determine that the supplier has ‘demonstrated’ a commitment to invest in manufacturing in the state. While the supplier certainly indicates the intention of supporting Maine jobs, this office does not believe that the supplier has demonstrated clear investments in the State of Maine.”

The Maine Public Utilities Commission will decide on Thursday if Statoil’s proposal satisfies Maine law and balances ratepayer costs with economic benefits.