AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Norwegian company Statoil announced on Tuesday that it was abandoning a proposed $120 million wind project off the coast of Maine, which industry officials once said could make Maine a leader in offshore wind power, after Republican Gov. Paul LePage's administration maneuvered to reopen the competitive bidding process.
The company said in a statement that changes in terms with the state and scheduling delays "made the project outlook too uncertain to proceed." Statoil said it was focusing on a project in Scotland while continuing to explore the United States' offshore wind market.
Renewable energy industry officials, environmental groups and lawmakers said Tuesday that losing Statoil's project is a significant blow to the state's ability to cultivate an offshore wind industry and doesn't bode well for future investment in the state.
"As a state economy looking to attract investment, this is a sad day for Maine," said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association. "Anytime you have a huge international player that was looking to Maine as a potential host for its investment and it shifts course, that calls into question whether this is a hospitable place for any type of investment."
In January, Statoil gained initial state regulatory approval for a 20-year contract with the state to put four wind turbines 12 miles off the coast. But the company put its project on hold in July after LePage signed legislation to reopen the competitive bidding process to allow the University of Maine to submit a proposal. LePage opposed Statoil's project, saying it would push $200 million in costs onto ratepayers.
An Associated Press review of documents found the administration had also initially floated "a much more aggressive effort to explicitly void" Statoil's agreement even before its move to reopen bidding became public. In effect, the state would limit the amount that home and business owners would pay for the project to about half of what Statoil had proposed.
The governor's top energy official said Tuesday that Statoil has long expressed concerns about the U.S. regulatory environment. He said it was prudent for the state to consider other proposals for a contract that will require a 20-year commitment from ratepayers.