Library filed under Energy Policy from Maine
After eight years of what some call obstructionist policies, renewables advocates look forward to Janet Mills in the Blaine House.
As the Maine Wind Energy Act enters a second decade, developers say the state is unlikely to see strings of new turbine towers on the horizon, as market forces overtake policy directives. In 2018, only a 22-turbine wind farm in Hancock County and a four-turbine project in Oxford County have active permit applications. There are several reasons why.
Franklin County residents and elected officials will have the opportunity Monday night to question Central Maine Power Co. authorities about a proposed Quebec-to-Massachusetts power line that would run through six towns and about 33 miles of the county.
Major players in the industry are holding off on $3 billion to $5 billion in spending on land-based projects, waiting to see if Mainers elect a candidate who will be more open to wind power than Gov. Paul LePage.
In other instances, the region’s growing fleet of wind and solar energy generators might have been able to help. But data gathered by ISO-NE found that snow and clouds during the period limited solar output to a small fraction of its potential. Generation from wind farms, too, was variable in the fast-changing weather conditions. At times, wind farms also were unable to feed power to the grid because of transmission-line congestion.
FERC approved ISO-NE’s two-stage capacity auction to accommodate state renewable energy procurements, with Commissioner Robert Powelson dissenting and Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Richard Glick leveling new criticism on the minimum offer price rule (MOPR) (ER18-619).
LD 1810 would shrink the area where wind developments are eligible for Maine’s abbreviated permitting process and ramp up requirements for projects that would still qualify. Following a series of procedural motions and votes Thursday in the House of Representatives, the bill is in danger of dying because of a disagreement with the Senate over which legislative committee should handle the bill.
New England’s power grid is in good shape now and home solar and energy efficiency efforts mean the region’s annual demand for electricity is projected to decline, according to the grid’s operators. But there are also problems ahead.
Gov. Paul LePage wants to eliminate Maine’s fast-tracked permitting process for commercial wind power projects throughout the state except specific locations within Aroostook County.
Representatives of five transmission projects proposed in July in response to the Massachusetts solicitation for 9.45 TWh/year of hydro and Class I renewables (wind, solar or energy storage) tried to explain why their projects should be among those selected in January. Contracts awarded under the MA 83D request for proposals are to be submitted in late April.
The letter and accompanying resolution — both supported 5-0 — cite the dangers of 500-plus-foot wind turbines and the associated transmission lines they say will forever spoil the “world class beauty” of the region.
Evans-Brown says opponents want to know why their scenery should become the pass-through for Massachusetts' electricity needs, "people who have businesses that would be impacted by the construction, and who believe they're business depends on tourists coming up to visit. There's a very famous pancake parlor that the owner came and gave very impassioned testimony."
A spokesman for a group of island residents behind the bill said the university is responsible for the crisis by changing the scope of the project. What started in 2009 as a scaled-down, temporary experiment has grown to a 20-year, full-scale project with blades that would reach 576 feet above the waterline and an undersea cable to the mainland, at Port Clyde. A project that size, said Travis Dow of Protect Monhegan, can’t help but impact the view for tourists and artists, who drive the island’s summer economy, and the experience for birders, who flock in spring and fall for annual migrations.
Martin’s 2013 examination of MPO, kept secret for three years under a legal exception to the state’s open records act, revealed that the program maintained almost no records, making it impossible for Martin to assess its effectiveness in achieving its public mandate: saving money. “The initial response and continued discussions with the staff at Maine PowerOptions were devoid of any metrics or statistics that would help to gauge the effectiveness of the program,” Martin wrote.
Before New England’s electric industry was restructured in the late 1990s, utilities directly charged customers for the cost of new power plants. But with private developers responsible for power these days, a special market has been put in place that creates a financial incentive to build the next generation of resources.
Pennies on the dollar are what some legislative policies cost the average ratepayer. Most people don’t worry about those pennies, but I am not one of those people. I believe that if you watch your pennies, they add up to dimes and eventually to dollars. Those pennies have added up, resulting in Maine having one of the highest electric rates in the country. The last two bills we worked on this year are classic examples of policies that, although well-intentioned, are costly and will likely do nothing to lower energy costs, never mind decrease our tax burden.
For those inclined to see the glass half full, Massachusetts has made enormous strides in reducing its carbon emissions. Coal-fired plants, the worst offenders, are dying out across the Commonwealth. Investments in energy efficiency have lowered demand. The solar panels sprouting up along the Massachusetts Turnpike are only the most visible of the new generation of green technologies feeding power into homes and businesses.
Backers of gas generation countered that renewables are benefiting from government-backed subsidies and long-term contracts that threaten to reintroduce government-mandated integrated resource planning. ...state policies are giving renewables undue advantage and undermining conventional generators’ investments in the market.
The legislative committee handling energy policy has recommended the state leave it to regulators and the courts to decide whether affiliates of Maine electric utilities can own power generation within the state.
Chris O’Neil, policy director for Friends of Maine’s Mountains, observes, “Maine and New England already have among the cleanest and most expensive electricity in America. Now southern New England wants to make it even more expensive while turning Maine into their wind plantation. It is unacceptable and we need to stop it.” ...Maine’s greatest resource is our fabulous scenery – mountains, lakes, rivers and ocean coastline. Continuing to ravage our birthright to support a misguided feel-good energy policy is an insult to our own citizens, their children and their grandchildren.