The Natural Resources Council of Maine is opposing a bill before the Legislature that it said would effectively raise energy costs for businesses by $100 million and gut efficiency efforts.
Dylan Voorhees, clean energy project director at NRCM, testified in a public hearing Thursday that Gov. Paul LePage’s bill, LD 1398, “An Act to Reduce Electric Rates for Maine Businesses,” would instead raise energy costs and act as a disincentive for businesses to adopt clean energy practices.
Voorhees said Maine has been “incredibly successful in lowering pollution and lowering energy costs and benefitting our overall economy” by the way the state has approached the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, also known as RGGI, and the Efficiency Maine Trust. RGGI is a nine-state cooperative initiative started in 2008 that uses a market-based mechanism to lower carbon emissions from fossil fuel-fired plants.
“This bill would take Maine in the opposite direction and make RGGI less effective at doing all of those things,” Voorhees said in his testimony. His comments were addressed to the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities & Technology.
Voorhees said LD 1398 also would cut support for lowering fuel costs at Maine businesses by 80%.
“Over the next three years, it would lower funding for business efficiency by $20 million,” he said. “Left with Efficiency Maine, that $20 million would be used to help businesses lower energy costs by $100-125 million over the lifetime of those capital improvements.”
He added, “Let me repeat: if you divert this $20 million away from energy efficiency, you will effectively raise business energy costs by $100 million.”
LD 1398 proposes increasing the amount of RGGI Trust Fund revenue that is to be returned to business ratepayers. It says that currently, 15% of the funds are returned to businesses, and the bill would increase that to 55%.
The bill’s summary says it also “adds loans and technical assistance to the required uses of the allocated funds, which also include measures, investments and arrangements that reduce electricity consumption or reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy costs at commercial or industrial facilities. It changes the percent allocated for those measures from 50% to 10% and adds the fiscal years of 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 for funds to be allocated.”