A proposal from the LePage administration to stall Maine’s development of renewable energy is misguided and should be rejected.
Gov. LePage has proposed that the state stop requiring utilities to increase the amount of renewable energy they supply to their customers. The current goal is for 10 percent of Maine’s electricity to come from renewable sources. The governor would freeze this at 4 percent, the current rate.
This, his administration says, will reduce electricity costs and save businesses money. Businesses, wisely, aren’t buying this rationale, as many of them lined up to testify against this proposal, LD 1570, before the Legislature’s Energy and Utilities Committee on Tuesday.
The director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, Ken Fletcher, estimated that eliminating the annual 1 percent increase would save consumers $42 million by 2017. Maine’s electric rates are the 12th highest in the country, he lamented.
What he didn’t say is that Maine’s electric rates are among the lowest in New England; they are the lowest in the region for commercial and industrial users so far this year, according to the Energy Information Administration. New England does have rates that are higher than many other parts of the country. This is because the region doesn’t have massive projects like the Tennessee Valley Authority or an abundance of local coal to generate cheap electricity.
That leaves the region with two options: reducing electricity consumption (Gov. LePage opposes work to accomplish this) and generating more electricity locally. Encouraging renewable energy to be a growing part of that mix makes sense, economically and ecologically.
“On a personal note, it would make it much more difficult for companies like ours to put good people to work,” said Paul Koziell, speaking on behalf of the Freeport-based general contractor CPM Constructors as well as the Associated General Contractors of Maine.
Much of the debate Tuesday featured several committee members’ rancor over wind power and its subsidies, which are outside the scope of the bill. While wind is a growing part of Maine’s renewable energy portfolio, it remains small. Hydro-electric power and biomass are the largest share.
Stalling development of renewable energy won’t reduce electricity costs and it won’t create jobs.