July 25, 2021

Crews Empowered> Power Struggle; Indeck, King talks doubtful

JONESBORO — The out-of-state owners of the Jonesboro wood-fired generating plant flew into Portland on Wednesday and said they hoped to meet with Gov. Angus King and Attorney General Andrew Ketterer this morning.

“Hope” may be the operative word. Dennis Bailey, the governor’s spokesman, said he knows of no meeting. The governor is going to be with Vice President Al Gore today, Bailey said.

Robert Swanson, the president of Ridgewood Power Corp. of Ridgewood, N.J., said he and Steve Dowdy, vice president of Indeck Energy Services of Buffalo Grove, Ill., have been trying to set up the meeting since Tuesday.

Ridgewood and Indeck are partners in the Jonesboro plant, and Swanson said they are coming to Maine to respond to the allegations by Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. that the companies engaged in “price gouging.” Bangor Hydro has accused Indeck and Ridgewood of reneging on an initial agreement with the company by jacking up the price they were asking to refire the Jonesboro plant.

David Lauren, special assistant to Attorney General Ketterer, said Ketterer is reviewing Bangor Hydro’s allegation. He declined to confirm whether a meeting was scheduled with the plant owners.

Swanson and Dowdy say there was no initial agreement on price. Their final offer was to produce electricty at 4.1 cents a kilowatt-hour, which would just cover the cost of firing up a cold plant, purchasing the wood chips to feed the boilers and operating the plant. The current price that Bangor Hydro pays for electricity on the spot market is about 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to Hydro Vice President Carroll Lee. But plant owners say that price would not cover startup of a plant.

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. made the “price gouging” allegation just after it pulled the plug on the Jonesboro facility Monday afternoon. The plant was within an hour of producing electricty for Washington County which lost power Jan. 8 when an ice storm took down 8 miles of Bangor Hydro’s main transmission line between Ellsworth and Cherryfield.

Bangor Hydro spokesman Bill Cohen said utility officials met with the attorney general Wednesday morning and Bangor Hydro “will have no further comments” on the dispute with Indeck and Ridgewood.

Swanson said Indeck and Ridgewood have extended until the end of February their offer to fire up the Jonesboro plant and sell Bangor Hydro the electricity at 4.1 cents a kilowatt-hour. Bangor Hydro rejected that offer earlier in the week, saying the company was implementing an alternative plan.

Meanwhile, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. is proceeding with this plan. Workers from Aggreko Inc. of New Iberia, La., were tying three 1.75-megawatt diesel generators into Bangor Hydro’s substation on Scott’s Hill in East Machias on Wednesday afternoon. Another three rental generators are being hooked into the grid at Maine Wild in Machias and Bangor Hydro has 3 megawatts of portable generation in Eastport.

The generators at Scott’s Hill probably won’t be feeding power into Bango Hydro’s grid until today, but Cohen said Wednesday that the company has all the residential power it needs.

“What we’re working on now are commercial establishments and businesses,” Cohen said.

The company estimated at 5 p.m. Wednesday that 1,000 of its 10,000 Washington County households remain without power, but Cohen said the power produced as the generators come on line will not restore electricity to those homes.

“Those are problems in the distribution system and we have crews working on that,” he said.

Nor is the company doing what is called “cycling” power, which is turning the electricity off in one community in order to give it to another community, Cohen said. Many communities in Washington County, including Columbia Falls, Jonesboro, Harrington, Machias and East Machias, have power for a number of hours and then lose it for almost the same number of hours, according to reports from residents.

Cohen said that is the result of line work. Crews are shutting off power to work on the distribution system, he said.

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