by Pete Didisheim, NRCM advocacy director
Senator Bartlett, Representative Bliss, and Members of the Committee; my name is Pete Didisheim, I live in Brunswick and am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine – the state’s leading environmental advocacy organization. I appreciate the opportunity to speak in support of L.D. 1931, “An Act to Encourage Energy Independence.”
In these times of tight state budgets, the Legislature faces the difficult task of determining which programs deserve support. You need to know that taxpayer money is being spent wisely, that proposed expenditures are an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars, and that management controls are in place to ensure that the benefits of state programs are being measured accurately. Based on these criteria, NRCM believes that the Efficiency Maine program earns high marks and warrants the phased increase in funding proposed by LD 1931.
At the outset, I should first acknowledge that this committee deserves much of the credit for the energy savings that are being realized by businesses, schools, churches, low income residents, and other Maine consumers statewide through their participation in Efficiency Maine programs. It was this Committee that protected the system benefit charge in the 1999 restructuring law, and this Committee drafted the law in 2002 (“An Act to Strengthen Energy Conservation) that led to the creation of Efficiency Maine at the Maine PUC and established key programmatic details – including the 20% mandatory allocations for small business and low income households; the “cost effectiveness” criteria; and the requirement that the Maine PUC monitor and evaluate the delivery of services, and compare Maine’s programs with others in the region, and nationally.
The PUC also deserves substantial credit for the extensive work that went into defining the initial programs for Efficiency Maine, established through a serious of orders in 2002 and 2003. The PUC has held multiple hearings, gathered input from the best experts in the region and nationally, and also conducted a very significant programmatic review of Efficiency Maine last fall (Docket No. 2005-446).
The Legislature has been reluctant to support prior efforts to increase funding for Efficiency Maine, in part because it felt that the program was still in the start-up phase. But now the program sits on a very solid foundation, and it is clear that increased investments would deliver very significant benefits for Maine’s energy consumers.
The programs run by Efficiency Maine currently are delivering an estimated $2.26 in benefits for every $1.00 invested. Equally important, Efficiency Maine’s programs are serving as a significant catalyst for private sector investments. In 2005, the Efficiency Maine Business Program provided approximately $1.6 million in incentives, which leveraged nearly $5.2 million in private sector funds. This means that more than $3.00 in private sector funding was spent for every $1.00 from Efficiency Maine. This is the type of public-private partnership that was envisioned when the program was established, with a provision that Efficiency Maine’s funding should not exceed 35% of total project costs.
The important public policy objective is to make Maine as energy efficient as possible, so that hard-earned money stays in the pockets of Maine people, businesses and other consumers. Efficiency Maine is contributing to this goal, but we’re not doing as well as the other states around us. Every other New England state has allocated a higher rate of its electricity dollars to the task of energy efficiency. This puts Maine at a competitive disadvantage, especially at a time of rising energy costs.
We know that there exists vast potential to reduce energy costs. Synapse Energy Economics concludes that the increased funding that would be provided by LD 1931 would deliver at least $45 million, and possibly as much as $180 million, in additional savings in electricity costs (net present value) between 2007 and 2012, as compared with the status quo level. This is real money that would stay in the hands of Maine people.
NRCM supports the other provisions of LD 1931, as well. We support implementation of the voluntary Model Energy Code adopted last year by the Legislature. We believe that hundreds of thousands of dollars can be saved at Maine schools through broader participation in Efficiency Maine’s Building Operator Certification program. And we believe that minimum energy performance standards should be established for furnaces and boilers, to help curb home heating costs.
Making cost-effective investments in energy efficiency will provide a broad range of benefits for Maine people and our environment. By using less energy, we free up money to be spent on other purposes, we reduce air pollution and other public health and environmental impacts of energy generation, and we contribute to the goal of energy independence. The Efficiency Maine success stories that are taking place around Maine would not have happened if not for prior leadership from this Committee. We urge you to build on that accomplishment by increasing investments in Efficiency Maine as proposed in LD 1931.
Thank you for this opportunity, and I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.