Library filed under Energy Policy from Maine
New England’s most populous states are looking to tap Canadian dams and rivers for more of their electricity, a change that officials say would help cut greenhouse-gas emissions and help keep some of the nation’s highest power prices in check.
Maybe, just maybe, some Mainers are becoming less inclined to fall in line and accept the state’s excessively generous standards for wind development. The Fort Fairfield Town Council recently approved a wind ordinance requiring turbine siting of one mile from property lines of non-participating property owners, rather than acceding to the state model — written by the wind industry — requiring setback of only 150 percent of the height of the turbine.
The billions New England wasted in the last decade on unsustainable feel-good generation assets were the same billions that should have been invested in critical, dependable, clean energy infrastructure. Specifically, our natural gas transmission constraints and our lack of access to large-scale Canadian hydro now stand as tragic examples of our grossly negligent misappropriation of resources.
Huskilson told analysts that Emera Maine is working with Central Maine Power Co. on a proposed transmission upgrade that would allow more wind power and other energy to be transported from northern Maine and Canada.
Utilities regulators turned down Central Maine Power Co.’s request to negotiate a land purchase for an affiliated wind power developer, arguing such an arrangement could open the possibility of improperly favorable treatment.
Staff for Maine’s utilities regulators recommended that Central Maine Power Co.’s request to set up a land deal for its sister company that develops wind farms should be denied, stating such an arrangement opens the possibility of improperly favorable treatment for the affiliated power generator.
Rep. Beth Turner, a Republican from Burlington, has several unorganized territories in her district and supported the committee proposal. "The 32 U-T's that I represent don’t have that right, their voices were taken away and they cannot have a public hearing," Turner said. "They deserve to have their voices heard."
Several initiatives by Gov. Paul LePage, including a proposal to use money from timber harvesting on state land to help low-income residents with heating costs, appear to be dead for this year, following action late Thursday by the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.
The committee took no action on the bill Wednesday. The panel’s co-chair, Sen. David Woodsome, R-York, said he hopes to hold a work session and vote on the bill Thursday. With time running out for the panel to wrap up for the session, lawmakers are under pressure to either kill the measure, adopt certain provisions or hold over the bill for consideration next year.
Gov. Paul LePage has submitted three bills to the Legislature aimed at lowering energy costs, but clean-energy advocates said Tuesday that the measures would dismantle years of state policies that support renewable energy and efficiency programs.
The bill, L.D. 1329, would eliminate the “expedited permitting” that industry supporters say has been key to making Maine the top wind power state in New England. Critics contend, however, that the law has forced Maine taxpayers to subsidize a costly and unpredictable energy source that mars the landscape while offering few, if any, environmental benefits.
The governor wants to move Maine instead toward a greater reliance on hydropower and is again pushing to modify the state's policies to facilitate the purchase of power from large-scale projects in Canada. His administration is also launching another bid to revamp the state's renewable targets to include the goal of lower cost to ratepayers. "If these (wind) projects are going to come, I want them to benefit the people who are most affected by it," said Patrick Woodcock, director of the Governor's Energy Office.
Commissioners in December approved term sheets for SunEdison’s 72.6MW Weaver and NextEra Energy Resources’ 44MW Highland projects ...However, one of the three commissioners has since been replaced and the board recently voted 2-1 to renegotiate the terms based on falling energy prices.
Welch has been replaced on the commission with LePage's former chief legal counsel, Carlisle McLean. Now the PUC says it wants to hear from interested parties on whether recent dramatic energy price fluctuations warrant a reopening of the wind companies' proposals.
Lawmakers are sharply divided on whether subsidies that promote investments in solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy are good energy policy or a drag on the Maine economy.
Democratic Rep. Ralph Chapman, D-Brooksville, who has been a critic of special interests’ influence in the Statehouse, voted against L.D. 1750. He said he’s concerned about “the degree to which legislators are corporate clients, rather than spokespeople for the people they represent. “A lot of major legislation is written by law firms representing the clients whom the legislation is designed to help.”
The parties lining up in the case are the same who challenged a joint venture by Emera and Massachusetts-based wind developer First Wind. They argue such affiliations violate state law preventing companies distributing power, like CMP, from owning power generation assets.
Maine — and the nation — have had ample time to realize that the wind industry has never fulfilled its promise in the three decades since state and federal governments began doling out tax credits and subsidies. The industry continues to claim it needs special consideration and taxpayer support, even as developers have tucked millions upon millions of dollars into their own pockets.
The three-year battle against a $333 million joint wind-power venture between First Wind and Emera took a new turn on Tuesday, when opponents to the deal filed a fresh challenge at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. A notice of the court appeal also was filed at the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Frequently clashing with Maine's environmental advocates, LePage blames renewable energy policies for driving up energy costs, which he says are holding Maine's economy back by preventing large companies from locating here and forcing businesses to offer lower wages.