LePage's 2012 Maine energy bills

Monday, March 12, 2012

Maine Governor Paul LePage has released his legislative proposals to address energy issues in Maine.  Among these bills is LD 1863, An Act To Lower the Price of Electricity for Maine Consumers. This bill would modify Maine's renewable portfolio standard, the law requiring electricity sold at retail in Maine to be sourced from an energy mix that includes renewable resources.  Specifically, it would eliminate an existing limitation that projects must be under 100 megawatts in size to qualify as renewable under Maine law.  (By comparison, Maine's largest dam is rated at 88.01 megawatts.  To give a sense of scale, one megawatt roughly powers 1000 households.)

LD 1863 would also modify Maine's long-term electricity contracting law, which allows the Public Utilities Commission to order Maine's investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities to enter into long-term contracts with certain renewable resources.  The legislature modified the long-term contracting law last session, and no contracts have been approved in the ensuing year; LD 1863 would make further changes, including making it "a primary consideration" whether any such contracts will lower the price of electricity to ratepayers over the life of the contract.

Governor LePage has also proposed other energy-related legislation, including LD 1864, An Act To Improve Efficiency Maine Trust Programs To Reduce Heating Costs and Provide Energy Efficient Heating Options for Maine's Consumers.  Efficiency Maine Trust manages Maine's energy efficiency programs.  LD 1864 would amend the Efficiency Maine Trust Act to change the governance and budget structures.  It would also shift the trust's programs away from its recent focus on reducing electric consumption, to encompass alternative heating sources - which could include heat pumps powered by electricity.

To Maine's electric transmission and distribution utilities, LD 1864 offers an opportunity to provide loans to customers for installation of qualifying heating systems.  Each utility could establish its own financing charges these for loans, and would earn a return on the loans based on its weighted average cost of capital - a figure that could be in excess of 10% - with any difference between the utility's weighted average cost of capital and any financing payments received from customers to be funded out of the electric system benefit charge managed by Efficiency Maine Trust.

The Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology is expected to hold public hearings on these bills later this week.

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