Seeking Competition Among the Uncompetitive: Maine PUC Must Define “Competitive” in Biomass Subsidy Proceeding
What makes a competitive bidding process “competitive”? The Maine PUC is currently grappling with this question in Docket No. 2016-00084 in which it is tasked with awarding contracts for up to 80MW of biomass generation. Under a new law, P.L. 2015, ch. 483, the PUC must solicit bids from eligible biomass resources. Lawmakers passed the bill to support Maine’s forest products industry, which has suffered as a result of a string of mill closures in recent years. Under the law, the PUC may enter into “above-market” contracts with biomass generators and pay for the above-market costs from special revenue funds to shield ratepayers from higher energy costs that would result from the contracts. The law is designed to help loggers and other forest service employees that rely on biomass generators, which are struggling to compete against low oil and gas prices.