The lead Democrat on the Legislature's Energy Committee says he and other lawmakers might intervene if the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approves a $1.2 million subsidy for Stored Solar LLC.

Jay Field / Maine Public

Maine utility regulators are recommending that an embattled biomass company forfeit 20 percent of its $1 million state subsidy for falling well short on purchases of waste wood from Maine loggers — a reduction that some loggers say is not nearly enough.

Jay Field / Maine Public

Lawmakers scrutinizing a biomass generator’s track record of unpaid bills are now questioning whether the firm even qualified for a slice of a $13.4 million taxpayer bailout that benefited the firm two years ago.

Maine Public

Stored Solar LLC, the owner of two biomass energy plants set to receive a slice of a $13.4 million taxpayer-subsidized bailout, is the target of legislation designed to make sure the company’s loggers and contractors are compensated for unpaid bills. The measure also recommends that the Maine Attorney General investigate the company.

A biomass energy company subsidized by Maine taxpayers continues to struggle. Loggers say Stored Solar isn’t paying them for wood they’ve delivered to its plants. But another biomass energy company eligible for the incentives is hitting its targets.

Loggers Say Biomass Firm Stored Solar Hasn’t Paid Them in Weeks

Aug 22, 2017
Brian Swartz / Bangor Daily News

Hancock logger George Moon had the first bad feeling in February. Months into supplying Stored Solar, the new operator of wood-to-energy plants in Jonesboro and West Enfield, bills went unpaid.

“We were just giving them a chance to work the bugs out,” Moon said.

A few more payments came through before the money stopped again in late spring, he said.

“I couldn’t tell you when the last time was.”

Moon alleges Stored Solar owes his three-person operation $50,000 for deliveries dating back 150 days.

A biomass company at the center of a dispute over payments to loggers is now asking to change the terms of its state subsidy. The company says it wants to dispel the notion that taxpayers are getting a bad deal.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A commission of energy regulators, lawmakers and other stakeholders met today to assess the economic and environmental impacts of the state's ailing biomass industry.

The panel was created earlier this year by the Legislature, which also authorized a controversial $13.5 million, two-year bailout that will benefit a few of the state's six biomass plants and the wood products industry that relies on them.

Friday is the deadline for the Maine Public Utilities Commission to receive bids for a controversial contract to bail out the state’s ailing biomass energy plants.

The contract could tap over $13 million in taxpayer funds to assist an industry that some worry can no longer compete on a level playing field. And the potential beneficiaries of the bailout continue to reward the legislators who backed it.

The US Senate passed a broad, bipartisan energy bill today, it includes language written by Maine senators Angus King and Susan Collins that aims to keep biomass power generators in the renewable energy marketplace.

As the legislative session moves closer to adjournment, lawmakers have voted on a measure to use expected surplus dollars to subsidize power generating facilities that use biomass for fuel. For some, the issue boils down to saving jobs in an industry that’s facing hard times.

Lawmakers in Augusta are considering a bill that seeks to bail out the state’s ailing biomass industry by requiring consumers to purchase higher-priced power from those plants.

With Maine’s legislative session heading to a close, lawmakers are struggling to find a way to assist the state’s at-risk biomass energy industry and the forestry jobs that depend on it. But some are looking to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to lend a helping hand.

Tom Porter / MPBN

WESTBROOK, Maine - Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King visited Maine's oldest paper mill Friday to promote legislation he recently introduced that would classify sustainably-harvested biomass as a renewable energy source. King says such a move would benefit businesses in Maine by helping them come into line with federal standards.