The following is the weekly message from Governor Paul R. LePage. To listen to the audio visit the Governor's website.
Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.
My fellow Mainers, I do not like being the bearer of disturbing news. But someone has to have the courage to tell the truth. Mainers are paying considerably more than you should for electricity.
Maine's energy costs are 10th highest in the nation, and our electric bills are 34 percent higher than the national average. But it does not have to be this way. Affordable energy is available right here in Maine and just across our northern border.
I traveled recently to Canada to meet with officials from Hydro Quebec, which has plenty of hydro power to sell at very affordable prices. They told me that selling power to Maine is not worth it. And it's all because Maine has a limit on how much renewable energy we can use, including hydropower.
Under Governors King and Baldacci, legislators enacted RPS - the Renewable Portfolio Standard - which restricts us to using only 100 megawatts of hydropower. Hydro Quebec has 41,000 megawatts of energy to sell, but they sell it in 1,000 megawatts increments. They wouldn't even consider selling as little as 100 megawatts.
Here in Maine, we have over 700 megawatts of installed capacity for hydropower. It is clean, it is renewable and it is affordable. So why would we limit hydropower? The answer is simple: Wind.
The 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.
This arbitrary cap gives wind an unfair advantage. It prevents us from using more affordable forms of renewable energy, and it drives up the cost of your electricity. Yes, my fellow Mainers, you are paying higher rates for electricity to subsidize wind power. That is wrong.
Because of RPS, the average residential consumer will pay $365 more in electricity over the next five years. But that's only part of the story. RPS will cost the average industrial user more than $63,000 in the next five years. And folks, that is a jobs killer.
Too many companies have told me that Maine's high energy costs prevent them from doing business here. For example, I made a generous offer to attract a world-class company to come to the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. The company told me it would not come to Maine for two reasons: we are not a right-to-work state, and our energy costs are too high.
In another example, one of Maine's major paper companies shut down for 30 days because it costs less for them to close for a month than to pay their high electricity costs. Good employees are paying the price for these irrational energy laws.
These high energy costs are robbing you every month. They are killing jobs, forcing layoffs and discouraging major companies from even looking to Maine.
Folks, it doesn't have to be this way. That's why I have introduced a bill to remove the 100-megawatt limit on renewable sources of energy, including hydropower.
I agree that we should explore all of our energy options, including solar, tidal, biomass and geothermal power. But the market should decide which of these options should succeed, not burdensome laws that benefit wealthy owners of wind companies.
So join me in supporting this common-sense bill to get the most cost-effective energy we can provide. Tell your legislators you want affordable electricity, and you want it now.