PORTLAND, Maine — Renewable energy developer SunEdison has decided not to seek a long-term contract with Maine utilities for its Weaver Wind project, following the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s reconsideration of the terms of a 25-year power purchasing agreement.
The company withdrew its project from consideration in a filing Monday. John Lamontagne, a spokesman for SunEdison, said that the project continues to move ahead, seeking another buyer for the power it would generate.
“SunEdison had hoped the PUC would execute the negotiated contract to deliver clean energy at a very competitive price to Maine homes and businesses, but it became clear to us that the Maine PUC was not going to approve the power purchase agreement,” Lamontagne wrote in an email. “For that reason, we have decided to withdraw our proposal for a long-term contract and seek other partners who see the benefit of clean, renewable energy at a below-market price.”
The PUC had reached and approved term sheets that would direct Emera Maine and Central Maine Power Co. to buy electricity from the Weaver Wind project at a price of about 5.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for 25 years. The 73 megawatt project would be built in the Hancock County towns of Osborn and Eastbrook.
The commission also had agreed to terms of a deal to buy power from NextEra Energy’s 44 megawatt Highland Wind project in Somerset County at a price of 4.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for 20 years.
Harry Lanphear, spokesman for the PUC, said that the Highland project is still in the running for the long-term purchasing contract. Other renewable power generators will not be able to submit additional bids after Weaver’s withdrawal.
In its April 2 order, PUC Chairman Mark Vannoy and Commissioner Carlisle McLean argued that a dramatic drop in natural gas and oil price forecasts were cause to re-evaluate the contracts. When approved, the contracts were estimated to offer a savings of about $73 million in power costs over the term of the contract.
Commissioner David Littell wrote a dissenting opinion in the case, arguing that the deals would provide a hedge against volatility in costs for power generated in other ways.
SunEdison and NextEra wrote in opposition to such a move, with SunEdison stating “a reconsideration of this long-term contract could meaningfully delay the project and could lead to its cancellation.”
Those forecasts are the subject of debate at the PUC, with Littell pushing for the various power price scenarios to become public and for him to be able to see the case through to its end. Emails documenting his request were filed on Friday as part of the long-term contracting case.
Opponents of the move to reconsider those term sheets argued that it created uncertainty for wind power developers.
The Office of the Public Advocate argued the decision “undermine(d) the perceived finality of commission decisions” and attorney Nathan Martell wrote on behalf of Emera Maine that reconsidering the decision based on forecasts for the price of oil and natural gas “would insert a great deal of uncertainty and unpredictability into the long-term contracting and regulatory process.”