The sole study purporting to show that a massive $4.9 billion Aroostook County wind power project will benefit Maine ratepayers was paid for by the developers of that project and conducted by the former employer of Maine Public Utilities Commissioner Carolyn “Carrie” Gilbert.
In June, Daymark Energy Advisors, a Worcester, Mass.-based consulting firm, released a 22-page document claiming that the 1,000 megawatt King Pine Wind project and the Aroostook Corridor transmission line would, together, reduce electricity costs in Maine over the projects’ 25-30 year lifespans.
Boston-based Longroad Energy, the wind tower developer, and New York-based LS Power, the developer of the transmission line, funded that Daymark study.
Until May 2023, Commissioner Gilbert had worked at Daymark for 15 years, including a stint on its board of directors that ended in January. According to her LinkedIn profile, she worked as a Managing Consultant for the firm until May.
Gov. Janet Mills nominated Gilbert to serve on the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on March 28.
A press release from Gov. Mills office announcing the nomination touted Gilbert’s experience at Daymark.
“For the past 15 years, Gilbert has worked at Daymark Energy Advisors, a leading national energy consulting firm,” the statement said. “In her position as Managing Consultant, Gilbert provides expert advice to policymakers, regulators, developers, and commercial and industry energy users on renewable project development and economics, policy design, and competitive energy procurement models.”
The Maine Senate unanimously confirmed Gilbert’s nomination on May 2.
As a result of Gilbert’s nomination, some Maine residents who oppose the projects have raised questions about the close ties between two Daymark clients and a member of the PUC, which regulates wind power and electricity transmission in Maine.
In a written statement, Gilbert told the Maine Wire she has recused herself from PUC matters related to Daymark’s former clients, Longroad and LS Power.
“I have recused myself from this docket and any involvement with the Northern Maine project,” said Gilbert.
Gilbert’s connection to King Pine and LS Power through her former employer has not been previously reported, nor has her decision to recuse herself from PUC’s regulatory oversight of the controversial projects.
Gilbert also said in her statement that she stopped discussing the LS Power- and Longroad-funded study of King Pine and the Aroostook Corridor with her Daymark colleagues once she learned she was up for one of three commissioner spots at Maine PUC.
“I had no involvement at all in the June 2023 study and as soon as I knew about the possibility of this position, I pulled myself from all discussions at Daymark regarding Northern Maine, LS Power, or Longroad,” said Gilbert.
Although LS Power and Longroad have no official relationship, their Maine projects are co-dependent.
That is, the wind farm isn’t viable without a transmission line and the transmission line isn’t needed without the wind farm.
If LS Power’s transmission line and Longroad’s wind farm move ahead as planned, then LS Power will receive compensation through a Transmission Agreement (TA) and Longroad will receive compensation through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
All of that money will come from Maine electricity rate payers via their electricity bills.
The PUC has yet to make the draft TA and PPA public, which means Maine lawmakers and residents have no way of knowing how much the project will really cost.
Apart from MPUC, Longroad, and LS Power, Daymark is the only entity privy to those agreements.
Despite the secrecy around the financial agreements that comprise the foundation of the two projects, lawmakers voted earlier this year to give the transmission line their blessing.
Susan Faloon, PUC’s media liaison, couldn’t say when those agreements might be available to ratepayers.
“Regarding a timeline on when the Power Purchase Agreement with King Pine and the Transmission Agreement with LS Power will be available to the public, a timeline has not yet been set as a final contract has not been executed or approved by the Commission,” said Faloon.
Executive employees and nominees, like Gilbert, are required to submit financial disclosures to the Maine Ethics Commission. As of Monday, Gilbert’s disclosure is not available on the Commission’s website.
Faloon said Gilbert’s last day of work with Daymark was April 27 and she last receive compensation on May 5.
However, Gilbert continues to receive payments from Daymark as it is an an employee-owned firm with an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
“ESOPs are governed by both the IRS and Department of Labor and given her separation from the firm; Commissioner Gilbert will be offered distributions from the ESOP according to the Plan’s distribution schedule,” Faloon said.
Faloon said Gilbert’s first financial disclosure will appear on the Ethics Commission’s website next year following the April 15th deadline for submitting those disclosures.
She said Gilbert’s continued receipt of payments from Daymark was disclosed to the Energy, Utilities, and Technology (EUT) Committee.
The Maine Wire has submitted a Freedom of Access Act request to PUC in order to obtain public records that may shed more light on PUC’s oversight of the Aroostook Corridor and King Pine projects.