NRCM news release
May 3, 2019 (Hallowell, ME) – The staff at the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has recommended dramatic cuts to Efficiency Maine’s proposed three-year plan aimed at helping Maine households, businesses, towns, and industry save money through investments in energy efficiency.
The staff recommendation released yesterday follows a disturbing pattern by the PUC of failing to recognize the full value of modern, clean energy solutions like energy efficiency, and results in a further reduction in funding that residents could have used for energy efficiency projects.
“The PUC’s systematic bias against energy efficiency is hurting Maine people, stifling our economy, and undermining our ability to accelerate the transition to a lower-cost clean energy future,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Time and time again the PUC’s actions are directly contradictory to clear laws and evidence—and the common-sense views of Maine people—that the cheapest source of energy is not wasting energy.”
By law, the Efficiency Maine Trust must develop a three-year plan to maximize energy savings for consumers by capturing all achievable, cost-effective opportunities. Efficiency Maine’s proposed plan (to begin July 2019) was approved by a unanimous vote of its Board of Trustees prior to submission to the PUC. The proposed three-year plan would have enabled Efficiency Maine to help consumers save $940 million over the lifetime of energy efficiency improvements.
The PUC staff recommended extensive changes to the proposed plan, artificially reducing the value of the savings from energy efficiency improvements. This action has the effect of prohibiting Efficiency Maine from providing incentives to consumers for the full range of energy-efficient equipment and technology that could help reduce energy bills and curb emissions. For example, the staff recommendation would effectively disallow promotion of heat pump-based hot water heaters, which Efficiency Maine has previously found very effective at delivering costs savings to low-income households and others.
“The PUC not only used an intentionally biased approach to valuing energy efficiency savings, they spent hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars on consultants with secretive price forecasts to justify their decisions, rather than use the clear, transparent analysis used by every other New England state,” said Voorhees.
The PUC is recommending a nearly 20% cut ($10 million/year) to Efficiency Maine’s proposed annual budgets, which has a commensurate reduction in the ability to help Mainers save money on energy bills. The PUC Commissioners will now consider the staff recommendation (known formally as an Examiner’s Report) and the comments of parties on that recommendation before deliberating in mid-May 2019.
The Legislature is expected to consider changes to Maine law that would require the PUC to give a more balanced analysis of energy efficiency in order to maximize energy savings for consumers.