Maine Public Utilities Commission ruled Georges River Energy LLC, which is trying to build a biomass plant in Searsmont, is responsible for expenses related to connecting the project to the grid, but that the proposed rate suggested by Central Maine Power Co. is too high.

The issue of whether GRE is responsible for what are known as incremental operation and maintenance expenses for distribution upgrades to connect the biomass plant to the grid has been a source of contention between the company and CMP.

In April, representatives for GRE filed a request for resolution with the public utilities commission regarding the operation and maintenance fees. The company argued that applying monthly operation and maintenance fees did not have any “reasonable or equitable justification,” and that those fees are not part of the actual costs associated with distribution upgrades. In addition, the company argued that the proposed rates could jeopardize the project because they would result in millions of dollars in expenses over the life of the project.

Central Maine Power, however, said GRE should be required to pay operation and maintenance fees because the distribution upgrades are directly related to connecting the biomass plant to the grid. CMP states it will need to reconstruct 4.8 miles of a three-phase line and make other improvements to support the biomass plant.

After soliciting additional comments from both companies, the commission issued an order Aug. 3 that GRE is responsible for operation and maintenance fees related to connecting the biomass plant to the grid and for incremental operation and maintenance expenses for the needed distribution upgrades.

The commission also directed CMP to file a proposed percentage factor to determine what operation and maintenance fees will be charged to Georges River Energy. Previously, CMP stated it wanted to charge a rate of 1.38 percent for operations and maintenance fees. That preset rate reflected overall costs, MPUC noted, and not the incremental costs associated with connecting the biomass plant. As a result, a 1.38-percent rate would result in unreasonably high costs, the commission stated in its order.

Georges River Energy and CMP have until Aug. 19 to file any comments related to the commission's decision.