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November 16, 2017

In Response to ENR Field Hearing at Robbins Lumber, King Introduces Combined Heat and Power Support Act

King bill would help support rural industries, create jobs, encourage energy efficiency

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to input from leaders of the forest products industry at the October U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee field hearing at Robbins Lumber in Searsmont, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today introduced the Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Support Act, legislation that would help sustain and strengthen rural industries and create jobs by reauthorizing the CHP technical assistance partnership (TAP), which sunset in September of this year. The bill would also provide funding for the CHP TAP program for the next five years. CHP technology can efficiently leverage byproducts of the forest industry and turn them into added value for local economies, which would diversify energy options for rural industries, increase markets for forest products residuals, and maximize use of Maine’s natural resources.

            “In Maine and throughout the country, lowering energy costs is essential to supporting rural industry and fostering job creation,” Senator King said. “At Robbins Lumber in October, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, industry stakeholders, and representatives from the Department of Energy were able to see firsthand how innovative approaches to controlling energy costs can be good for business, and good for the health and vibrancy of the surrounding community. Maine sits on a goldmine of fiber, and by offering an array of strategies to Maine businesses, we can better manage energy usage and ensure our forest products sector is leveraging every inch of the tree – from stump to stem.”

            “As we look to diversify and restore markets for full utilization of our forest resources, wood energy is an extremely important opportunity for Maine’s loggers and truckers,” Dana Doran, Executive Director, Professional Logging Contractors of Maine. “The DOE Technical Assistance program can provide important tools to assist Maine in expanding market opportunities for wood energy to make Maine more energy independent.”

            "Enabling biomass power facilities to sell the heat produced in generating electricity is the next frontier for our industry," said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of Biomass Power Association. "We thank Senator King for fighting for this funding, which will go toward helping biomass facilities do the necessary upgrades to sell heat. This could boost not only biomass facilities, which face stiff competition in current power markets, but also the larger forest products industry in Maine and around the country." 

            “The Alliance for Industrial Efficiency applauds Senator King for his leadership in introducing legislation to authorize the Department of Energy’s Combined Heat and Power Technical Partnership Program (“CHP TAPs”),” said Jennifer Kefer, Exeuctive Director of the Alliance for Industrial Efficiency. “The CHP TAPs and the supporting efforts of the DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office’s Technical Assistance Partnerships save consumers money, increase economic competitiveness, strengthen our nation’s energy security, and reduce harmful emissions through the use of CHP. By authorizing the continuation of the CHP TAPs, Senator King will help manufacturers, universities, and institutions save money, reduce their energy use, increase their reliability in the face of extreme weather events that may compromise the grid, and lower their emissions.”

Specifically, the CHP Support Act would authorize $12 million in funding for the CHP TAP program each year through Fiscal Year 2022. The CHP TAP program enables higher education research centers to provide assistance and analysis for any business looking to invest in CHP technology and has supported a wide-range of businesses throughout the country. In Maine, the program has helped multiple businesses install energy-efficient CHP equipment that has saved energy costs. Following Hurricane Maria, some of the only facilities with power in Puerto Rico were hospitals with on-site CHP technology.

In early October, Senator King hosted a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee field hearing at Robbins Lumber, a fifth-generation family owned sawmill in Searsmont, to discuss how CHP and microgrid technology approaches can support rural industries and communities and to underscore the energy saving potential of colocation energy approaches. Robbins Lumber currently has a CHP facility under construction that will generate electricity and thermal energy from wood waste produced in the region’s logging operations and sawmills. The field hearing included witnesses from the Maine forest products and energy industries as well as the Director of the Advanced Manufacturing Office in the Department of Energy.

Senator King has been a strong advocate for reducing energy costs and supporting job growth for Maine industry. The Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT), originally requested by Senators Collins and King in March 2016, recommended the development of markets for forest product residuals including low-value wood in CHP biomass plants, micro-grids, and modern thermal systems. In the EDAT report, the Department of Energy announced support through its CHP Technical Assistance Program to help Maine’s forest industry with feasibility assessments of existing operations to install CHP technology as a strategy to lower costs through generating onsite power.

Senator King has also introduced the Biomass Thermal Utilization Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation that would establish a tax credit for business and home use of high-efficiency biomass heating equipment. Tax incentives already exist for other forms of renewable energy and this bill seeks to achieve parity between those renewable systems and thermal biomass systems. 


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