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March 5, 2018

Questions raised over Stored Solar's biomass subsidy

State lawmakers reviewing Stored Solar LLC’s late or missing payments to loggers and contractors are now questioning whether the biomass generator qualified for a taxpayer subsidy awarded by the Maine Public Utilities Commission in December 2016.

Maine Public reported that, according to the 2016 bailout bill, energy plants must be “operating at least at a 50% capacity for 60 days prior” to bid for the subsidy. Stored Solar purchased two plants in Jonesboro and West Enfield shortly before the PUC awarded them the subsidy contract, but neither plant was operating at the time of Stored Solar’s application.

The PUC addressed the must-run provision in its decision, saying the $13.4 million taxpayer bailout bill that resulted in Stored Solar’s subsidy was designed to save Maine’s six plants, not just a few of them, regardless of whether they were operational. PUC Administrative Director Harry Lanphear told Maine Public that the agency’s decision was not appealed.

But some lawmakers said they were not aware that Stored Solar wasn’t operating during its contract bid.

The PUC is now reviewing the Stored Solar contract to determine how much of the state subsidy it might be eligible to receive. The review could be completed this spring.

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