As other New England states add incentives for heating systems that use renewable energy sources, Maine’s top energy official said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.
Massachusetts and New Hampshire have both added thermal energy to their renewable portfolio standards, which in Maine provides a subsidized market for electricity generators using renewable power.
Renewables advocates in the Northeast point to heating as a prime area of opportunity in the region’s cold climates. Patrick Woodcock, head of the Governor’s Energy Office, said during a Jan. 21 forum in Hallowell he thinks adding thermal energy “could have huge benefits.”
“I think the first mover in this is going to have some logistical challenges,” Woodcock said of New Hampshire during the forum hosted by the clean technology industry group, E2Tech. “I hope they succeed and we can replicate what they do.”
Last year, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill directing the Maine Public Utilities Commission to study adding thermal energy credits to the state’s renewable portfolio standard, writing “it would add further complexity to an already costly process for encouraging electricity generation from renewable sources in Maine.”
Charlie Niebling, a principal for the New Hampshire-based consultancy Innovative Natural Resource Solutions, said his state’s thermal energy credits have created a “fairly significant incentive” for biomass and modern wood heating projects.
LePage has proposed changing Maine’s renewable energy purchasing requirements with the intention of attracting more hydropower from producers in the state and Canada. The market for renewable energy credits is now limited to producers — except for wind — that have less than 100 megawatts of generation capacity. The credits largely go to smaller biomass generators.