The utility’s transmission line will harm Maine’s environment, economy and way of life – and will do nothing to reduce climate-disrupting pollution.
by Dylan Voorhees, climate and clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine
Portland Press Herald op-ed
AUGUSTA — Climate disruption is the most serious threat to the environment in Maine, the nation and the world, and scientists are clear that the warming we are already experiencing is caused by human pollution.
That’s why we were pleased to see the Press Herald’s Oct. 14 editorial, “Our View: Climate impact key to Maine power line decision.”
The Natural Resources Council of Maine opposes Central Maine Power’s massive proposed transmission line because it will harm Maine’s environment, economy and way of life and do nothing to reduce climate-disrupting pollution. It’s a bad deal for Maine.
NRCM has been instrumental in virtually every major climate- or clean energy-related policy initiative in Maine for the last two decades. From urging Maine to adopt climate goals, developing a climate action plan, joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and establishing the Efficiency Maine Trust, NRCM has been a leading voice for climate action.
Recently, the biggest barrier to progress on climate change and clean energy has been Gov. Le-Page. Over a longer time horizon, however, few have been more hostile to renewable energy and energy efficiency than CMP. Indeed, they have consistently lobbied to thwart the will of Maine people on these issues.
In the early 2000s, CMP fought to block increased funding for Efficiency Maine. CMP opposed the creation of Maine’s renewable portfolio standard and led the effort to disrupt the ability of homeowners, businesses and communities to generate their own solar power. Most ironically, CMP has strongly opposed legislation in Maine that would result in long-term commitments to buy renewable power. But when Massachusetts passed such a law, CMP rushed in with a scheme to profit from it.
Given this history, NRCM and others are rightly skeptical of CMP’s claim that their transmission project would help achieve Maine’s climate and clean energy goals. We need to measure clean energy solutions based on whether they deliver real benefits, not on whether they will deliver $60 million a year in profits for CMP’s shareholders.
In a number of ways, CMP’s transmission line is likely to harm Maine’s efforts to combat climate change, not help.
First, the line will not result in more renewable energy. CMP’s permit proposal explicitly says that Hydro-Quebec would not construct any new generation resources to supply energy to Massachusetts through a transmission line across Maine. Hydro-Quebec and CMP have tried to distract Mainers with misleading and vague statements about generation upgrades and new dams already under construction, but don’t deny that those plans have nothing to do with this transmission proposal. Thus, just as much climate pollution will be produced whether the line is built or not.
Sworn testimony from CMP at the Public Utilities Commission confirms that Hydro-Quebec’s business strategy includes buying energy from other low-priced fossil fuel markets such as New Brunswick, using it to increase storage in their reservoirs, and then selling hydropower at a higher price to other markets, such as this contract to sell power to Massachusetts. That’s green-washing.
Given the complexity of Hydro-Quebec’s system and its unwillingness to testify on the record, it’s impossible to know exactly how much of the energy flowing through Maine could actually be contributing to increased carbon emissions. In the best case, it will simply re-direct hydropower already being sold to other customers, with zero net benefit for the atmosphere.
Second, CMP’s proposal is likely to hinder Maine’s efforts to develop our own in-state renewable energy sources, which actually would reduce carbon emissions and create jobs and economic opportunities. CMP’s proposed line could strain existing transmission capacity in Maine, making it more expensive for Maine renewable power projects to connect to the grid. Fewer grid-scale solar and wind projects would be built in Maine, and we’d lose the economic and job benefits of such projects.
NRCM will work with any individual, business or organization that will help move Maine toward a clean energy future, including utilities. But CMP’s transmission line offers no climate benefits and should be rejected.
Maine needs a plan to meet our existing state goal of reducing climate-disrupting pollution by 80 percent by 2050. We believe Maine can achieve such reductions by taking advantage of rapidly expanding energy efficiency and clean energy technologies to increase our energy independence, strengthen our economy, improve our environment, create jobs and increase prosperity for all Mainers. Unfortunately, CMP’s power line proposal may stand in the way.