Library filed under Energy Policy from Maine
While Ehrhardt acknowledges the fact that National Grid has signed an agreement with Deepwater, he believes there should be some re-negotiating about this agreement. "There are contracts in place, so I'm not suggesting we just walk away from our obligations, as foolish as they may be," said Erhardt, referring to the PPA between National Grid and Deepwater. "Instead, we should consider contractual renegotiating, by trying to come up with a buyout asking Deepwater to reimburse us."
The prospect of a new construction boom isn’t being welcomed by Gov. Paul LePage, who has been a vocal critic of the cost of wind energy. For one thing, the negotiated rates aren’t as low as they seem, according to Patrick Woodcock, the governor’s energy director, because of the added cost of upgrading transmission lines. Beyond that, he said, out-of-state power agreements don’t help Mainers with their high energy bills, which could be lower if wind had more competition from Canadian hydro and new biomass plants. “Wind is not the only option for renewable energy generation in New England,” he said.
It has been reported that Massachusetts’ utilities National Grid, Northeast Utilities and Unitil have negotiated power purchase agreements (PPAs) for 565 megawatts of electricity capacity from existing and proposed wind farms in New Hampshire and Maine that would provide electricity at wholesale rates of approximately 8 cents per kilowatt-hour.
The two projects announced Friday will provide 3.5 percent of Connecticut's total energy load and one-fifth of the state's renewable energy goals By law, the state must obtain 20 percent of its electric needs from renewable sources by 2020. The final choices were Esty's, based on recommendations from a procurement team from DEEP's Bureau of Energy and Technology Policy, and the offices of the Consumer Counsel and Attorney General.
The governor argued that if ratepayers in Maine were going to fund offshore wind development through higher electric rates, the University of Maine should be allowed to compete. Earlier, the university declined to participate in the bid process with the PUC but did offer its support to Statoil, with which it has a collaborative relationship.
Is it worth risking the health of Maine's paper industry to clarify the state's ocean energy policy?
Proponents of RPS mandates like to talk about the green jobs "created," but they fail to account for the private-sector losses that pay for these jobs. Regulations requiring that companies use higher-cost sources for electricity mean less money can be spent expanding business and employing talented workers. Bartlett boldly asserts that reforming the RPS mandate "will have serious, damaging consequences for Maine consumers and our environment." His justification? None.
"If you are so in favor of this legislation, brothers and sisters, put a 480-foot windmill in your backyard and see how long you last!" said Democratic Rep. Brian Jones, of Freedom. Jones says the residents who have those windmills in their communities should have the right to say whether they want them or not.
"On Vinalhaven, on Nantucket, in the Pacific Northwest - all across the country as green energy gains traction - reactions to wind projects are elucidating larger American values. If Vinalhaven is any example, American individualism may struggle to find a place in the new green economy."
Gov. Paul LePage is withholding support for a compromise bill being worked out by the Legislature's Energy Committee that's aimed at expanding Maine's natural gas infrastructure, boosting funding for energy efficiency, directly lowering businesses' electricity costs and making it more affordable for residents to abandon oil heat.
Armed with the signatures of the majority of residents in their townships and plantations, they went to ask lawmakers to pass a bill to give them back the right to influence how the land in their communities was used. That right, they said, had been taken away.
LePage also is displeased that the bill ignores a study by Woodcock's office meant to reconsider the state's ambitious wind energy goals and shift the priority to lowering electricity rates. Wind power policy is too big an issue to tackle in the bill, said John Cleveland, D-Auburn, Senate chair of the committee.
Eliminating unrealistic statewide wind energy capacity goals, as Woodcock suggests, would be a start toward revamping Maine's wind energy policy to reflect the progress that's been made and the best route to capitalize on it in the future.
The [Maine] RPS law limits the amount of energy we can use from renewable sources, such as hydropower, solar, tidal, biomass and geothermal. But in 2009 legislators lifted the cap for wind power, which is expensive to build and produces a minimal amount of our electricity. In 2011, we got only 4.5 percent of our electricity from wind. While it produces only a fraction of energy, it is some of the most expensive electricity we buy.
The underlying issue in New England is that gas pipeline capacity is inadequate to keep prices steady in times of high home heating demand, said Vamsi Chadalavada, executive vice president and chief operating officer of ISO New England. ISO is leading a study focused mainly on reliability, but reliability is intertwined with price, he said.
The nonprofit that runs the New England power grid is exploring incentives to encourage gas-fired power plants to commit to long-term contracts, which could in turn finance more pipelines. The Governor's Energy Office is looking at ways to facilitate capital investment. The Maine House minority leader has a "bold proposal" - but he's not sharing it just yet.
The LePage administration wants Hydro-Quebec to sell power here, possibly at the expense of wind and biomass generators. More than 30 years ago, Gordon Weil and then-Gov. Joseph Brennan traveled to Montreal to meet with Quebec Premier Rene Levesque. They met at the headquarters of the provincial power company, Hydro-Quebec.
Maine has a chance to trim $170 million a year from electricity bills, cut its reliance on oil and take advantage of historically low power costs, but lawmakers first must authorize state government to help bring natural gas here from new gas fields in the Northeast.
"Homeowners will pay $85 more per year on their electricity bill and business will pay more than $600 annually," says LePage - citing a study by the Maine Heritage Policy Center and Beacon Hill Institute. "Industrial users will suffer the most taking on more than $14,000 per year because of the mandate."
The Maine Energy Office announced Friday that electricity rates in Maine as compared to the national average are much higher than other states. The data, provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, indicates that Maine rates are improving. However, Maine is still 24 percent above the US average.