Governor LePage Vows to Lower State's Energy Costs


Maine Governor Vows to Lower State's Energy Costs

07/01/2011   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Maine's electrical rates are among the highest in the country and Gov. Paul LePage wants to make reducing those costs a top priority next year. A significant amount of the power generated in Maine is shipped for sale throughout New England over transmission lines that are currently in the process of receiving a major upgrade. But a new study by Environmental Northeast concludes that electric utility transmission system expenditures are skyrocketing and actually pushing up electricity costs.

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On the final day of the legislative session, Gov. Paul LePage departed from his closing remarks to lawmakers to underscore what he says will be a major challenge for the state next year. 

"In 2010, we were ranked number 12th in the country with the highest electricity rates," LePage said. "Yesterday afternoon I received the latest report and we've climbed to number eight." 

LePage says the high cost of electricity burdens Maine families and discourages businesses that would like to relocate to Maine or expand existing facilities.

"We are way out of whack with the rest of the country," he said. "We are about 30 percent above the national average as we speak today--before we add on all the state add-ons," he said. "I'm talking simply about energy, transmission and distribution."

"There's no silver bullet for this whole issue, and it is going to be incumbent on this administration not to make drastic changes to a well-thought-out mixture and mix of different alternative sources of energy," says Sen. Barry Hobbins, a Saco Democrat with considerable experience on energy and utility issues. 

Hobbins says that the governor's office, lawmakers and energy stakeholders will have to employ a multi-layered strategy to cut Maine's electrical costs--including some energy efficiency suggestions from Environment Northeast, a public policy advocacy group that is sounding the alarm over the costs of $4.75 billion worth of electrical transmission expansions underway across Maine and the rest of New England.

"Maine is a good example as to how the system is broken, we think, in CMP's big new transmission project," says Derek Murrow of Environment Northeast.

Murrow says the planning that went into the $1.4 billion Maine Reliability Project to upgrade the state's electrical infrastructure never incorporated non-transmission alternatives--also known as "NTAs." NTAs include options such as energy efficiency, demand response, smart grid technologies and small scale, clean distributed generation. 

Murrow says NTAs represent the future of the state's long-term energy planning. "They're generally things that are on the consumer side of the system--so energy efficiency improvements, controlling demand in peak periods by controlling energy consumption, or installing, say, distributed generation like solar or combined heat and power in an industrial facility," Murrow says. "And these non-wires alternatives can definitely be lower cost and they're also easier to site, have limited impact on natural habitats and people's views and other issues of environmental concern."

"I don't think their analysis is quite as complete as what it should be, in that we're already doing that," says Ken Fletcher, who directs Gov. LePage's Office of Energy Independence and Security. "Now, maybe we can do more, and I think we will do more."

While he agrees with Murrow that Maine can always do more to conserve energy, Fletcher says it doesn't mean that the state has been sitting on the sidelines in the quest to cut energy costs, including identifying ways to reduce demand during peak power periods.

"One of the things that is proceeding is the whole installation of smart meters--that's one of the tools and technologies that's going to allow us to manage our grid in a more effective way," Fletcher says. "We also do lot of work with demand and response. All of that's going on, so I wouldn't want it to be characterized as the only thing that we're doing is building transmission lines, because that's not completely accurate."

Fletcher says he shares Environment Northeast's goal of developing energy policy changes that would help control costs for consumers. He and Gov. LePage plan to review energy strategies for the state over the summer.



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Hannah Pingree on the Maine expedited wind law

Hannah Pingree - Director of Maine's Office of Innovation and the Future

"Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine."


Maine as Third World Country:

CMP Transmission Rate Skyrockets 19.6% Due to Wind Power


Click here to read how the Maine ratepayer has been sold down the river by the Angus King cabal.

Maine Center For Public Interest Reporting – Three Part Series: A CRITICAL LOOK AT MAINE’S WIND ACT


(excerpts) From Part 1 – On Maine’s Wind Law “Once the committee passed the wind energy bill on to the full House and Senate, lawmakers there didn’t even debate it. They passed it unanimously and with no discussion. House Majority Leader Hannah Pingree, a Democrat from North Haven, says legislators probably didn’t know how many turbines would be constructed in Maine if the law’s goals were met." . – Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, August 2010 Part 2 – On Wind and Oil Yet using wind energy doesn’t lower dependence on imported foreign oil. That’s because the majority of imported oil in Maine is used for heating and transportation. And switching our dependence from foreign oil to Maine-produced electricity isn’t likely to happen very soon, says Bartlett. “Right now, people can’t switch to electric cars and heating – if they did, we’d be in trouble.” So was one of the fundamental premises of the task force false, or at least misleading?" Part 3 – On Wind-Required New Transmission Lines Finally, the building of enormous, high-voltage transmission lines that the regional electricity system operator says are required to move substantial amounts of wind power to markets south of Maine was never even discussed by the task force – an omission that Mills said will come to haunt the state.“If you try to put 2,500 or 3,000 megawatts in northern or eastern Maine – oh, my god, try to build the transmission!” said Mills. “It’s not just the towers, it’s the lines – that’s when I begin to think that the goal is a little farfetched.”

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