Maine PUC oks First Wind JV

Maine regulators have approved for a second time Emera’s $333m investment in developer First Wind’s project portfolio in the US Northeast.

The state Supreme Court in March ordered the Maine Public Utilities commission to re-examine the partnership – a subsidiary of Nova Scotia-based Emera has 49% - it first consented in 2012.

The joint venture is Northeast Wind Partners.

Opponents argued before the PUC that the joint venture would violate Maine’s electric industry deregulation that took effect in 2000 that restricts power transmission and distributors like Emera Maine from also owning generation assets.

The deregulation law required the state’s principal utilities Bangor Hydro, now Emera Maine, and Central Maine Power, now owned by Iberdrola, to divest their power plants.

Emera acquired Bangor Hydro in 2001 and Maine Public Service in 2010, merging them this year to form Emera Maine.

PUC spokesman Harry Lanphear tells Recharge that the case also involved whether the financial relationship that the joint venture creates could result in in Emera Maine favoring the joint venture for access to its grid.

The 2-1 PUC decision could be subject to further litigation.

Emera spokeswoman Dina Bartolacci Seely says the company has not seen the PUC written order formalizing its decision. When asked if the ruling meant that the joint venture will now move ahead with wind projects in Maine, she notes, “That type of a call we can only speculate on that once you read the decision in writing. It would be hard to speculate on how it would or would not impact.”

Boston-based First Wind is the largest wind developer and generator in Maine.