Maine is trying to lower energy costs and increase energy efficiency. Sadly, its Governor may veto legislation that would do this at the expense of Maine’s ratepayers and emerging renewable energy industry.
A bipartisan omnibus energy bill is making its way through the Maine state legislature. The compromised package, L.D. 1559, passed the Senate on Thursday.
However, Governor Paul LePage opposes the bill, and his energy director said a veto will occur if the bill reaches his desk in its current form.
Andrew Sturgeon, president of the Action Committee of 50 (a group of business and community leaders promoting economic development), wrote a special for the Bangor Daily News highlighting the ways the omnibus bill helps Mainers:
- “By expanding efficiency programs, all electricity consumers achieve a net savings — amounting to $76 million last year.”
- “The expansion of natural gas infrastructure could reduce electric bills of Mainers by $100 million to $200 million per year after full implementation.”
- “The governor proposed adding ‘lowering energy costs’ to the Public Utilities Commission’s mandated responsibilities and goals for the Efficiency Maine Trust, something this bill achieves.”
- “By using $3 million to $5 million per year from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce residential heating costs, this bill does exactly what the governor asks for.”
Despite the bipartisan work and the savings customers in Maine will experience, LePage will veto the bill because he wants the 100-megawatt cap in the state’s renewable energy standard to be removed.
This provision requires renewable energy facilities to be smaller than 100 megawatts in generating capacity in order to quality for energy credits. Wind energy, thankfully, is not included in this provision. If this specific part of the RES law is repealed, large hydro facilities (specifically from Canada) would be allowed to receive energy credits and therefore Maine’s standard would be “watered down.” The incentive for wind energy companies to continue their growth in Maine would likely end.
LePage is certainly not putting the citizens of Maine first. Over the past few years, an ALEC sponsored initiative undertaken by LePage and his allies — State Senators Michael Thibodeau and Edward Youngblood — have introduced legislation that would dismantle the state’s RES. The “model legislation” provided by ALEC would require the use of large hydropower as a part of the RES calculation. This change would reduce the ability of Maine to utilize its own existing renewable resources to provide for the state’s electricity needs.
Wind energy is becoming a vital and innovative energy resource within Maine due to its positive economic and environmental benefits. Indeed, wind developers in Maine have spent nearly $1 billion since 2004 which has led to the creation of hundreds of jobs. Furthermore, for every 300 megawatts of wind energy installed in Maine, $375 million in construction wages is generated along with a $750 million tax base increase.
Health and environmental advocacy groups, such as the American Lung Association and Sierra Club Maine, have also endorsed new turbine projects citing their potential to “reduce pollution, create good local jobs, and protect wildlife.”
Phil Bartlett, Maine’s Senate majority leader from 2008-2010, recently wrote in the Bangor Daily News:
“The attempts by LePage and his allies to dismantle Maine’s RPS represent an embrace of a corporatist approach to Maine’s energy policy, which, if left unchecked, will have serious, damaging consequences for Maine consumers and our environment. As a former legislator, I am perhaps most troubled by the ease with which these groups have infiltrated our State House.”
It is necessary for wind energy to increase in Maine as 63 percent of the state’s electricity is generated from gas and oil, and 90 percent of homes are heated by oil — mostly imported from other countries.