April 01, 2020

Jonesboro plant on standby > Bangor Hydro, Indeck settle price argument

JONESBORO — Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. officials and the owners of a Jonesboro generating plant say they have put last week’s argument behind them and will work together to assure that Washington County continues to have power while workers repair 8 miles of transmission line knocked out by last week’s ice storm.

Tom Campone, the president of Indeck Maine Energy, said his company and Bangor Hydro have agreed that Indeck will keep the Jonesboro plant on standby. If power is needed, Indeck’s Jonesboro plant can be brought back on line within 24 hours. Campone said Indeck will supply the electricity at cost and the agreement remains in effect until Bangor Hydro has rebuilt its main transmission line into Washington County.

The company expects repairs to be completed within the next four to six weeks. If Indeck and Bangor Hydro cannot agree on a price that covers Indeck’s cost, the two have agreed to accept a decision by an independent third party.

Bangor Hydro President Robert Briggs said his company has accepted Indeck’s offer and will call on Indeck if there are problems with the diesel generators or the temporary interconnection between Deblois and Bangor Hydro’s distribution system that runs from Ellsworth to Washington County. Bangor Hydro tapped into the Deblois line above the 8-mile break in the company’s main transmission line between Veazie and Washington County, he said.

The agreement between Indeck and Bangor Hydro was struck after an exchange of letters between the two companies as the Maine Attorney General’s Office began reviewing Indeck and Bangor Hydro’s Jan. 12 breakdown in negotiations. Those talks ended when the companies couldn’t agree on how much Bangor Hydro would pay Indeck to produce power. The disagreement took place just hours before the Jonesboro wood-fired plant was to begin producing electricity for thousands of Bangor Hydro’s Washington County customers.

The matter remains under review by the Attorney General’s Office and both Indeck and Bangor Hydro officials have declined to discuss last week’s argument.

Briggs said his company asked Indeck to fire up the plant Saturday, Jan. 10, in an attempt to ensure adequate power for Washington County while the transmission line was being repaired. Briggs said firing up the Jonesboro plant was one of several contingency actions. As it turned out, Bangor Hydro had no need for the Jonesboro plant because the company tied into the main transmission line above the Deblois break and that power came into service on Monday, Jan. 12, Briggs said.

The temporary line, in combination with the distribution lines from Ellsworth, was sufficient to meet the demand of those customers who came back on line as the result of repair work, Briggs said.

Saying that he understood Indeck wanted to help, Briggs said his first suggestion was “that we both refrain from any further unilateral public comment about our business relationship or our past differences”.

Briggs went on to say that Bangor Hydro accepted Indeck’s offer to put Jonesboro on 24-hour standby.

Briggs also made another proposal to Indeck.

If Indeck would agree to sell Bangor Hydro the Jonesboro power at the 4.1 cent per kilowatt-hour that Indeck has mentioned in press releases, Briggs said his company would agree to use the Jonesboro power in place of the diesel generators that are providing a portion of the temporary power while the transmission line is being rebuilt. Briggs said Bangor Hydro would be willing “to talk about a minimum amount of power during this period” so Indeck “could be assured of actually operating the plant”.

Campone’s Jan. 16 letter confirming the agreement to put Jonesboro on standby did not respond to that proposal. Indeck attorney Alan Waskin said yesterday that his company could not discuss that proposal until the Attorney General’s Office makes a decision on last week’s breakdown in negotiations.

Approximately 60 percent of Bangor Hydro’s 10,000 Washington County customers lost power during last week’s ice storm. As of Monday afternoon, all but 24 Washington County customers were still without power, according to Bangor Hydro spokesman Bill Cohen.

Cohen said the power surges that some Washington County businesses are reporting are not from the power supply, but from trees that continue to fall on distribution lines. Bangor Hydro has plenty of power, Cohen said.

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