by Sue Jones, NRCM energy project director
Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments on behalf of the Natural Resources Council of Maine (Council). The Council is a public interest, nonprofit organization that seeks to protect and conserve Maine’s environment for now and future generations. As part of the Council’s work, we advocate on energy issues, especially for reducing energy use in Maine, thereby reducing the impacts of energy use to our environment and public health.
I want to thank Beth Nagusky and the members of the Energy Resources Council (ERC) for a very open process in putting together this report. In addition to two public meetings, and today’s public hearing, the ERC has conducted a very open and receptive process. Many have complained about the process being a “top-down” approach and not open to comments. This is not the case at all, as the report’s recommendations have come from a wide variety of stakeholders with adequate and ample opportunities to comment.
In general, I would like to commend Beth Nagusky and Arthur Adelberg for putting together such a comprehensive report in a very limited amount of time. Of the final 5-6 recommended actions, I would like to address two in particular that, in the Council’s opinion, represent the largest and most important opportunities for the State as we approach the upcoming legislative session.
First, I’d like to address the Report’s near-term priority recommendation for increasing the systems benefit charge (SBC) for cost-effective efficiency programming (page 103). This should be the #1 priority for the ERC, and for the Utilities Committee to pass next session. In 2002, the State commissioned Exeter Associates to analyze the potential for cost-effective electricity efficiency programming in Maine. In its report, it found that the State could save $500 million in savings within the next nine years (by 2012), by increasing the SBC to levels that are comparable to our neighbor states in New England.
This large, untapped potential for saving real dollars for Mainers is “low-hanging fruit”, waiting for us to help make it happen here in Maine. Examples of where we could tap this potential is in providing additional low-interest loans and support for Maine businesses in need of reducing their energy costs and usage, in training building operators in properly and efficiently maintaining and operating their buildings, in creating incentives to build more efficient, and “greener” homes and buildings that have lifetime reductions in energy use, in promoting rebates for purchasing high-efficiency appliances and equipment. With additional funding to Efficiency Maine, our State could provide desperately-needed costs savings to businesses, municipalities, school districts, and every Maine citizen.
As can be seen on page 104, in the Report’s Table IV.2 “Summary of Electric ratepayer Funded Energy efficiency Activities in the Northeast”, Maine’s SBC is the lowest in the Northeast. We are now capped at 1.5 mils/kwh. I urge you to amend the Report to first, recommend adopting a 2 mil/kwh and second, to work actively to pass this level of funding that is proposed in carryover bill, LD1261.
The benefits and paybacks of cost-effective efficiency programs are well-documented. This Report states that there is a $1.83 payback for each dollar spent on electricity efficiency in Maine. Making 83 cents for each dollar invested seems like a prudent payback to me that the ERC and the UTE should consider seriously.
Second, I’d like to address the Report’s near-term priority recommendation for establishing a trigger mechanism for adopting efficient appliance standards (page 115). As the Report found, adoption of efficiency standards for 10 consumer products has an estimated electricity cost savings of $5 million per year over the period 2005-2010. Adopting these standards with a trigger would ensure that Maine would not be alone in the region and would create regional market demand for products meeting the new standards.
Lastly, I want to emphasize one of the most important purposes in reducing energy use in Maine: it saves real money. As was recently said by a California Energy Commissioner, “The cheapest kilowatt is the one that don’t have to generate”. The less energy we use in Maine, the more we save. Further, because we purchase most of our electricity from the New England grid (where it is owned predominantly by out-of-state companies), the more money that we save on efficiency is more that stays in-state to be reinvested into our local economies.
You, the ERC, have a tremendous opportunity in adopting this Report to strengthen and reinforce your commitment to reducing energy use – and energy costs in Maine. As this Report recommends, two of the best ways to do that is to increase efficiency funding and adopting appliance standards.