An official defense of Gov. LePage’s bill on electricity costs fails to mention some facts.
by Suzanne Watson
WASHINGTON – With all due respect to Kenneth Fletcher’s opinion piece on June 3 (“Governor’s bill offers common-sense reforms to cut electricity cost”), I must say that the head of the state Office of Energy Independence and Security has erred by omission of some of the facts.
First, though Maine has a 30 percent renewables requirement and has had it for many years, it does not truly equate to other states’s renewable requirements that do not include waste heat recycling.
In fact, Maine has the highest renewables standard solely based on the fact that the paper mills can claim the reuse of waste heat for paper production as part of Maine’s state renewable standard.
No other state is wise enough to give such credit to an industry’s smart reuse of energy that otherwise would be vented and wasted.
Fact is, Maine met and even exceeded its 30 percent renewables requirement right from the start based on this inclusion of waste heat recovery. Mr. Fletcher fails to mention this fact in his opinion piece — a critical omission.
Also, as has been stated in earlier submissions to The Portland Press Herald, costs incurred by ratepayers in Maine have increased largely based on generation and transmission additions and not by new renewable technologies in any significant way.
Maine is larger geographically than all the other New England states put together and has a population of only 1.3 million people by the last census calculation, making it necessary for fewer ratepayers to support the costs of extensive transmission and distribution lines as well as upgrades to generation capability.
Simply put, we all pay for the cost of our power reliability (keeping the lights on) but we have fewer folks to contribute which equals to a higher cost overall. The cost for our electricity is not related to renewables but rather to the reality of our state-specific statistics — another omission from Mr. Fletcher’s piece.
While supporting a renewables market in Maine is a serious economic development opportunity — is the welcome mat out or not? — a part of the energy puzzle that many forget is the economic development opportunity that energy efficiency offers.
Hand in glove with the renewable standard, which Maine wisely espouses, is the opportunity to adopt an energy efficiency standard in the state. Just as Maine was smart to include waste heat recovery as part of its original renewables standard so would it be smart now to consider adopting an efficiency standard.
Twenty-six states now have such a standard in play, so Maine would not be leading in this adoption but rather following more than half the states in this nation. This is an open door to additional economic development and jobs in a critical growth sector of the U.S. economy today.
So, the point is that Maine should not roll back the clock and be seen by others to be checking out on progressive energy policy, but rather to push ahead and invite new energy companies to come to Maine to create the new economy jobs other states are actively pursuing.
It is unwise indeed to declare that Maine is digging a hole in terms of energy policy when in fact the state has set out a good path — a welcome mat — to the new companies and jobs of the future. It is truly a no-brainer to do so.