Gov. Janet Mills signed legislation in July 2019 to help boost renewable energy in Maine, create clean energy jobs and fight climate change. The legislation aims to help achieve the governor's goals of 80 percent renewable energy in the state by 2030 and emissions reductions of 80 percent by 2050. Credit: Courtesy of the governor's office

Maine regulators approved 17 renewable energy project bids on Tuesday that Gov. Janet Mills called a first major step toward reaching goals of 80 percent renewable energy statewide by 2030 and emissions reductions of 80 percent by 2050.

The Democratic governor signed legislation in July 2019 to help boost renewable energy in Maine, create clean energy jobs and fight climate change. The projects include solar, hydroelectric, biomass and wind energy. The project bidders will enter into 20-year contracts with either Central Maine Power or Versant Power.

“Today’s announcement is a historic step forward in Maine’s effort to embrace renewable energy, create good paying green-collar jobs, diversify and expand our economy, and combat the threat of climate change,” Mills said in a prepared statement.

The legislation was sponsored by Assistant Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, and signed into law by Mills.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved the projects for long-term contracts in line with requirements by the Legislature. The projects were selected through a competitive process and evaluated based on the expected value they are expected to provide to Maine consumers and the state’s economy, the commission said.

Commission Chairman Phil Bartlett said the first-year prices for energy from the new projects will be “very competitive.”

“These projects are expected to provide substantial benefits to the Maine economy by creating jobs and making significant local investments,” he said.

Based on estimates from bidders, the projects would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 500,000 tons per year, according to the commission.

The awardees also committed to providing benefits to the state, including more than 450 full-time equivalent jobs during their construction and 30 full-time equivalent jobs each year during operations.

They also committed to spending $145 million initially with Maine-based entities and $3 million annually during the 20-year term of the project contracts. Also included are various payments averaging $4.7 million annually to host communities and payments to Maine-based contractors to harvest about $11 million to $12 million worth of wood each year over the 20 years.