March 26, 2012

Maine: LePage unveils four energy bills

Gov. Paul LePage has unveiled four pieces of legislation aimed at reducing energy costs and expanding options for Mainers. In a press release, LePage said the bills would also help entice more business creation in Maine.

The four pieces of legislation are:
  • An Act to Lower the Price of Electricity for Maine Consumers, which would remove the 100-megawatt cap for qualifying renewable generation, specifically hydro power. Currently, hydro power under 100 megawatts is considered renewable, but hydro power above that limit is not. The move would help lower rates, according to the governor.

  • An Act to Provide Transparency in Electricity Pricing for Maine Ratepayers, which would require the Maine Public Utilities Committee and the Office of the Public Advocate to submit budgets based on a "zero-based budget approach." It also requires the PUC and OPA websites to show the cost of various fees and charges on electricity.
  • An Act to Improve Efficiency Maine Trust Programs to Reduce Heating Costs and Provide Energy Efficient Heating Options for Maine's Consumers. The bill would expand the existing voluntary Renewable Resource Fund to allow contributions to energy efficiency, and funds could be used by the Efficiency Maine Trust. It also establishes a home-heating equipment rebate program of 5% for qualified systems and provides new opportunities for consumers to access efficient alternative-energy systems. Under this legislation, the Efficiency Maine Trust would submit a budget for approval by the Legislature.
  • An Act to Change the Name of the Governors' Office of Energy Independence and Security: The name of the office would change to the "Governor's Energy Office." Efficiency Maine Trust funds would support it. A position in the Office of the Public Advocate would be eliminated, and the assessment on utilities would be reduced.

According to Capitol News Service, the 100-megawatt limit on hydro power's qualification as renewable was put in place to protect Maine-based power generators from unfair competition with hydro power from government-owned utilities in Canada. LePage's legislation would allow power purchased from Canada to be counted toward the state's requirement that 35% of electricity comes from renewable sources.


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