Phil Bartlett doesn’t know much about the costs of the renewable portfolio standards, but he does like to huff and puff about conspiracy theories. In a June 4 OpEd, he conjured up dark, sinister forces aligning themselves against his pet environmental regulations.
Among them he cites Americans for Prosperity. As the state director for Americans for Prosperity Maine, I advocate on behalf of our more than 6,000 members here in Maine who believe that lower taxes, smaller government and less regulation are the best ways to ensure economic prosperity and opportunity for all of our state’s residents.
It is a position I have espoused during my time serving in the Maine Legislature and throughout my life, all of which has been spent in the great state of Maine. Bartlett fails to consider the impact of the RPS on Maine taxpayers. That impact should guide policymaking, not his conspiracy theories.
It’s important to note that the standards are not equivalent to renewable energy. Renewable sources of energy have existed long before the state law was implemented in 1999. Maine’s lakes and rivers feed hydroelectric power, and our plentiful woods fuel biomass electricity production. Thanks to these sources, the state was already meeting the original demand for utilities to produce at least 30 percent of power by renewable sources. In other words, more than a third of Maine’s power comes from renewable sources. However, that wasn’t enough for some.
In 2006, legislation was passed to require that plants increase the amount of new renewable power by 10 percent by 2017. Will Maine reach these higher goals? At this point, the Pine Tree State is not on track, and the trends don’t look good for success. Of the 35 other states with RPS mandates, only 14 are meeting or on track to meeting their goals. While the jury is out on the environmental benefits, the cost to taxpayers and employers is staggering.
According to the Beacon Hill Institute, the current RPS mandates in Maine will raise the cost of electricity in the state by $145 million by 2017, with an average annual increase of $80 for individuals and $615 for commercial businesses. This isn’t just the case in Maine, either. Energy costs in RPS states are 40 percent higher than those non-RPS states, according to a report by the Institute for Energy Research. This comes as little surprise, given that RPSs require generation from the most costly sources of electricity.
Higher electricity bills mean real pain for Maine families — especially low-income families who are on a tight budget.
These costs also mean fewer job opportunities, as businesses have to cut back on hires. The mandates will lower employment by nearly 1,000 jobs. The RPS imposes a double-whammy on those most in need — it cuts into their pocketbook by raising the cost of electricity, while making it more difficult to find work.
Proponents of RPS mandates like to talk about the green jobs “created,” but they fail to account for the private-sector losses that pay for these jobs. Regulations requiring that companies use higher-cost sources for electricity mean less money can be spent expanding business and employing talented workers.
Bartlett boldly asserts that reforming the RPS mandate “will have serious, damaging consequences for Maine consumers and our environment.” His justification? None. The actual research indicates that leaving the RPS mandate in place will certainly hurt Maine consumers and may not even result in more renewable energy.
Maine energy consumers deserves better than Bartlett’s rants. It’s time for Maine to scrap the new RPS mandates and let consumers in the free market choose the best energy source.
Carol Weston is Maine state director of Americans for Prosperity and is a former state senator.