Statement by Dylan Voorhees, NRCM Clean Energy Project Director
“This override vote is great news for Maine people and our environment. Most importantly, the bill will cut energy costs significantly for homeowners and businesses, which will be good for Maine’s economy, energy security and pocketbooks.
“NRCM has worked hard to pass this bill because it is a major step forward on energy efficiency, putting Maine on a course to dramatically reduce how much energy is wasted throughout our society.
“We were extremely disappointed when the governor vetoed this bipartisan, compromise bill earlier this month. For reasons that we fail to understand, the governor rejected a bill that would help lower electric costs and help thousands of homeowners cut their heating bills — two goals that all Mainers should embrace.
“But tonight’s Senate vote to override the veto turns this bill into law. (Following the House vote to override last week.) We congratulate the Legislature for not allowing the governor to stop this important progress on energy.
“It is hard to overstate the importance of this bill for increasing energy efficiency and reducing pollution from energy consumption. It will increase investment in efficiency, take the politics out of decision-making on future efficiency investments, and save hundreds of millions of dollars. And the legislation will lower the global warming pollution cap under RGGI by 45%, a huge step forward that strengthens this initiative and keeps Maine leading the nation in cleaning up power plants.
“It was unfortunate that the governor and his legislative allies tried to obstruct and jeopardize the bill throughout the process. The Republican amendment to an offshore wind bill today, offered in an attempt to appease the governor, sends a regrettable signal to a prominent international renewable energy business trying to invest in Maine. We hope that the Public Utilities Commission will continue to move quickly to finalize a contract for offshore wind by the end of the year.
Among other things, this bill:
- Provides a significant increase in funding to Efficiency Maine’s core electricity savings programs — the first increase in a decade.
- Changes the policy framework so that the Public Utilities Commission (not the Legislature) will determine energy efficiency spending levels based on an economic analysis about maximizing savings for electric ratepayers.
- Approves reductions in the carbon cap for power plants under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) — this 45% reduction will keep Maine in RGGI, and keep RGGI working to lower global warming pollution.
- Directs the vast majority of RGGI funds to remain in use for energy efficiency purposes at Efficiency Maine.
- Requires Efficiency Maine to use one third (roughly $4 M/year) for programs that reduce heating costs for homeowners, such as weatherization or high-efficiency heating systems. This could benefit nearly 5,000 homeowners per year.
- Requires the PUC’s to give greater consideration of alternatives to transmission lines, such as efficiency or distributed renewable power.
- Requires all natural gas utilities to participate in efficiency programs (currently only the largest gas utility in Maine does so) and requires the PUC to determine the level of investment based on maximizing savings for gas ratepayers.
- Extends a pilot heat-pump program currently being run by Bangor Hydro.