Maine energy efficiency bill faces hearings

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Today a Maine legislative committee holds a public hearing on one of Governor LePage's energy bills for the 2012 session.  The Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology will hear public testimony on LD 1864, "An Act To Improve Efficiency Maine Trust Programs To Reduce Heating Costs and Provide Energy Efficient Heating Options for Maine's Consumers".

This bill would modify the governance of the Efficiency Maine Trust, giving the Governor authority to choose which board member serves as chair.  It would remove the word "independent" from a description of the Trust's board, and would state that the Trust is "a body corporate and politic and a public instrumentality of the State.

It would also allow Maine's electric transmission and distribution utilities the opportunity to offer loans to their customers to support the installation of alternative heating systems.  The Trust could determine what systems might be eligible, but at least one utility has suggested electric-based systems like mini-split heat pumps, and several utilities have expressed interest in electric thermal storage.  Under LD 1864's vision, utilities could earn a guaranteed rate of return on their loans based on their weighted average cost of capital, likely at least 10%.  Utilities would be free to charge customers a lower financing rate if they choose, with the difference between financing payments received from customers and that guaranteed rate of return being funded by Efficiency Maine Trust.

Today's public hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.

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