Thursday, March 25, 2010

The big news in this corner of the continent is that Hydro-Quebec and New Brunswick Power have canceled their proposed deal. Details are still coming out, but key factors include the radical unpopularity of the deal in NB -- with some reports of as low as 8% of New Brunswickers supporting the deal -- and "increased costs and risk" for HQ. More to follow for sure.

In Maine legislative news:
The Utilities and Energy Committee has voted out an amended version of LD 1810, the Ocean Energy Task Force bill. This bill, proposed by Governor Baldacci's Ocean Energy Task Force, underwent a significant scaling back during the committee process, largely due to concerns over impacts to electric ratepayers. The Task Force, whose members included former Central Maine Power utility chief David Flanagan, was told to propose legislation that would remove obstacles to building 5000 MW of offshore and coastal wind and tidal energy in Maine. The result was a bill that included mandates to overbuild transmission, loosen the standards for the PUC's approval of transmission lines, have ratepayers finance generator lead lines, and expose all ratepayers to rates of up to 25 cents per kWh in order to pay for long-term contracts for ocean energy. Through extensive questioning by legislators and stakeholder involvement, the result is a dramatically scaled-back bill voted out of the Committee unanimously this evening. As voted out, the amended bill eliminates much of the the pro-transmission prejudices embodied in the original bill, and the provisions that would have had ratepayers backstop generator lead lines. The Committee also transformed an ocean energy RFP process that would have exposed ratepayers to potentially significant cost increases into a voluntary "ocean energy standard offer". This is a good result that will empower Maine's renewable energy industry and economy, without inappropriately exposing ratepayers to costs and risk.

When dam owner FPL Energy got approval to remove its Fort Halifax dam and hydroelectric station on the Sebasticook River in Winslow, Maine, many people voiced concerns ranging from bad energy policy (why remove clean hydro when we're doing all we can to install more renewable capacity?) to bankside erosion causing damage to houses. The naysayers were right about the erosion; yesterday, the town completed its $725,000 buyout and demolition project of the six houses on Dallaire Street that were in peril of falling into the river.

Central Maine Power's $1.6 billion MPRP transmission project runs into new trouble: the Sierra Club says the MPRP will harm wetlands.

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