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October 06, 2017

King, Maine Industry Leaders Discuss Job Creation, Lowering Energy Costs

Senate Field Hearing, held on National Manufacturing Day, underscores importance of efficient energy for Maine jobs, industry

SEARSMONT, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), today hosted an Energy Committee Field Hearing at Robbins Lumber, a fifth-generation family owned sawmill in Searsmont, on how combined heat and power (CHP) and microgrid technology approaches could help sustain and strengthen rural industries and create jobs by turning byproducts of the forest industry into added value for local economies. The hearing, which examined efficient approaches to ‎help increase markets for forest product residuals and maximize every piece of Maine’s natural resources, 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.

“In our state, it has been found over and over again that addressing energy costs are critical to job creation in Maine,” Senator King said in his opening statement. “An important method of controlling energy costs is to offer an array of strategies, tools and technologies to industries and businesses to better manage their energy usage and to increase the efficiency of their operations.

“[…] as we’ve seen here at Robbins Lumber today, there are innovative approaches to incorporating energy technology, like CHP, in ways that can not only be beneficial to energy costs of the business, but also help sustain jobs in the forestry, logging and trucking industries, and helping the broader electric grid as well. The success of this project to generate energy from sustainable resources, will help offset the loss of demand of low grade wood and help strengthen our forest economy.”

This week, Senator King joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues to introduce a resolution marking October 6, 2017 as “National Manufacturing Day.” National Manufacturing Day seeks to underscore the importance of manufacturing for the United States economy and for hardworking men and women around the country.

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.

The day began with a tour of Robbins Lumber, which 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. Following the tour, Senator King chaired the field hearing and heard testimony from industry leaders from around Maine about the positive impact combined heat and power initiatives can have for rural industries and communities, as well as the energy saving potential of microgrid and colocation energy approaches. The day will end with a breakout session to further discuss strategies for energy efficiency for rural industries in Maine.

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