Group taking PUC to court over Efficiency Maine budget

Posted July 26, 2016, at 4:49 p.m.

An environmental group is taking Maine regulators to the Maine Supreme Court over a three-year spending plan for efficiency measures in the state.

The Conservation Law Foundation says the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved a budget that was lower than state law requires.

Efficiency Maine uses funds collected from electricity consumers and a few other sources to pay for incentives that help Maine residents and businesses use energy more efficiently, by subsidizing the cost of efficient LED lighting, for instance, or the cost of more efficient appliances. The idea is that, over time, the expenditures will reduce energy use enough to save all consumers more than was put in.

The standard set by state state law says the Public Utilities Commission must finance the “maximum achievable and cost-effective” energy savings. And that is where the Conservation Law Foundation’s Ben Tettlebaum says the commission fell short.

“This has widespread effects, so greater incentives for LED lighting, incentives for retrofits, incentives for home heating,” he says. “These are all important measures which if they don’t have adequate funding, they lose on those.”

Tettlebaum says regulators cut by 30 percent a budget originally proposed by members of the Efficiency Maine Trust, bringing it down to $185 million over three years. The trust’s board eventually agreed to that lower figure, however, in a negotiated deal that also included the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the state’s two largest electric utilities and the Office of the Public Advocate.

The trust’s director and the PUC had no comment on the CLF’s appeal.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

 

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