Library filed under Energy Policy from Maine
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.
Alan Stone, attorney for appellant the Houlton Water Co., said the two commissioners who approved the deal had not followed the direction set by the Supreme Judicial Court. “We don’t believe that what the commission did today really addressed the issues” raised by the court, said Stone.
Building more electricity transmission into New England isn't about an "energy crisis." It's about economics, jobs, corporate profit, failure to make the small fixes that add up, failure to do detailed analysis, failure to resist stampede crisis mentality, and lots of other things.
“The states and NESCOE are deliberately working out the details of this plan in secret, consistent with the view of one of NESCOE’s staffers that the plan should be ‘formulated behind closed doors’ because the ‘court of public opinion can be fickle and recalcitrant,’ ” Courchesne wrote, quoting an email from a NESCOE staff member to Executive Director Heather Hunt.
This is not about good wind vs. bad wind, folks. This is about citizens’ rights. Much research has been done to determine how this UT law change could have happened in the first place. Unfortunately, all the legal “i’s” were dotted and “t’s” were crossed. Barely. Developers and Environmental NGOs had more notice and access to the process than the citizens affected, but that’s another story for another day. The moral to that story is “watch your back at all times”, though.
“They are a motivated and organized trade association,” said Chris O’Neil, a lawyer for the Friends of Maine’s Mountains citizen group. “We continue to see Big Wind scrambling to build whatever projects they can before the honeymoon is over and their product totally falls out of favor.” O”Neil said that as federal subsidies for wind power dry up, the industry will find itself outperformed and priced out of the market by other generators.
LePage admonished participants at the forum, many who are involved in clean-sector businesses focused on energy efficiency, biomass, solar and wind power, not to expect the public to foot the bill for the cost of research and development. A vocal opponent of Maine’s wind power policies and any additional costs they put on ratepayers, LePage indicated the state now seems to be favoring solar subsidies.
L.D.1791 was amended to keep the megawatt goals - a small victory for wind advocates - but the bill now also seeks to require developers to prove a project’s economic worth before receiving approval from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. The original bill had included a goal, not a mandate, that a developer substantiate job creation and lower electricity rates.
The bill as amended adds new criteria to the state's wind-energy goals, including one that says new grid-scale wind power projects in Maine must show how they will reduce the price of electricity, create jobs and bolster the state's manufacturing industries prior to approval for construction by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Six years into a state plan to charge ahead with wind development, the game may be changing. Gov. Paul LePage has put forth a bill that would shift the goal posts and redefine what the state expects from its wind projects. While the LePage administration argues that the state can and should switch strategies, pro-wind interests say the bill is just the latest attempt to tackle the industry before it can gain any yardage.