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Athens Energy new tax credit eligibility helps spur investments

A biomass power plant in Athens, Maine, received certification for
Maine New Markets tax credits from directors of the Finance Authority of
Maine. The facility is run by Athens Energy LLC, a sister company of
Maine Woods Pellets Co., which runs a wood pellet manufacturing plant in
Athens.

“The new energy facility will supply electricity and heat to the wood
pellet facility, and burn very low quality biomass that wouldn’t be
used by the pellet facilities,” said Kris Eimicke, Athens Energy and
Maine Woods Pellet Company’s representing attorney. “The two companies
create tremendous efficiencies.”

The certification will help the company trigger investor interest in
the biomass power facility. “This is a key step in achieving the overall
financing for the project,” Eimicke said.

Beyond incentivizing investors, the certification will help the
entire state, specifically the Somerset County area. “It helps the state
in many ways, but probably the most important way is the jobs this
project saves and retains,” Eimicke said. “The pulp and paper industry
has suffered a number of downturns, and the state as a whole needs to
look for new ways to leverage one of its most significant resources, its
timberlands.” 

Maine Woods Pellets Co. and Athens Energy provide some of the needed
leverage. Eimicke sees pellet mills and biomass electric generation as
an important use of timber resources, “evidence by the fact that this
investment will result in the creation or retention of at least 230
jobs,” he said.

The Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program provides refundable
state tax credits of up to 39 percent to investors in qualified
community development entities (CDEs) that reinvest in certain
businesses in eligible low-income communities in Maine.

CCG Community Partners LLC is one such investor, and was previously
approved by FAME for tax credit allocation to three of its subsidiaries.
The credits are expected to help leverage $30.3 million in investment
in the biomass plant. The proposed investments have been certified by
FAME to be eligible for state tax credits totaling more than $12.13
million.  A portion of the investments is also eligible for federal new
markets tax credits. However, the tax credits will not be issued until
the actual investments are made.

“FAME’s certification of these projects is an important step to spur
further investment in this Maine-based business,” said Paul Hoffman,
managing director of CCG Community Partners LLC, in a statement. “The
expected tax credits will not only help create jobs directly at these
sites, they should also encourage other business development in the
surrounding communities.”

The investments will be in the form of loans to Athens Energy for use
in construction of the power plant and the equipping of a biomass
electricity generator and transaction costs. The investments will also
help Maine Woods Pellet Co. expand its facility. “The additional heat
from the electric plant along with stabilized electricity prices will
allow the pellet mill to operate at full capacity year round, which they
cannot currently do,” Eimicke said.

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