THIS WEEK'S NEWS FROM AUGUSTA
Several Important Bills Just Out
The FMM legislation is out
FMM's bill is printed. LD 1329, sponsored by Representative Beth O'Connor, proposes several overdue changes. It:
- Prioritizes firm capacity electric generation over lower quality resources.
- Maintains renewables as a priority, but emphasizes higher quality renewables, regardless of where the electricity is generated.
- Removes from Legislative Findings some inaccurate and misguided language that gave favor to wind energy.
- Repeals the law that made wind energy a permitted use
- Removes from statute future goals for wind energy buildup
- Requires wind project applicants to fund thorough review
- Removes assumptions of benefits from wind energy
- Improves the community benefit requirements
- Improves the decommissioning requirements
The so-called "100 Megawatt" legislation
Last month was the hearing for LD 132, An Act to Remove the 100 Megawatt Cap on Hydropower Under the Renewable Resources Laws. The bill's sponsor has offered an amendment that would treat all renewables equally regarding government mandates, allowing them to compete in the marketplace. As FMM often points out to legislators, not all energy sources are equal. Among renewables there are high quality and low quality resources, so we ought not force ratepayers to purchase low quality.
If passage of LD 132 helps to hasten procurement of Canadian hydropower by our partner states in the ISO-New England, it will be good for ratepayers, good for the environment, and good for Maine's mountains.
With over 5000 megawatts of firm generating capacity nearing retirement in New England (most of it dirty old coal and oil plants), our grid needs to find significant quantities of dispatchable, affordable power. No amount of low quality wind energy can replace (or even displace) this base load and peak load generation. High quality hydropower from Newfoundland, Labrador, and Quebec can not only sustain our grid needs, it can also fulfill the various states' renewable mandates.
For senseless political reasons, this legislation has been defeated in the past. New England is approaching crisis because of natural gas pipeline deficiencies. Our continued negligence of such critical infrastructure cannot continue. Likewise, to block this hydropower enhancement is to harm Maine's clean air and Maine's economy.
See FMM's testimony on the bill by clicking HERE.
Citizens' Rights Legislation
LD 791 is a Wind Lobby bill that incredibly seeks to expand the abilities of wind developers to run roughshod over rural Maine and its residents. This bill will be heard the Agriculture Committee on April 14. The Agriculture Committee oversees the Land Use Planning Commission, which has jurisdiction over the Unorganized Territory.
LD 828 is a citizen-written bill that seeks to restore the abilities of rural Mainers who need to have some control over wind development in their communities, like other Mainers have. Could be an interesting juxtaposition with LD 791, given the decreasing popularity of wind energy. The two bills will get back-to-back public hearings on April 14. To learn more about this important legislation and how you can participate CLICK HERE
Expansion of RPS
LD 1263 is an expansion of the renewable portfolio mandate that allows solar developers to take the Renewable Energy Credit subsidy that comes from your light bill. Those solar developers would also get federal Production (or Investment) Tax Credits as well as mandated contracts and mandated sales of their electricity back to the grid regardless of whether the grid wants it or can afford it. While FMM would rather see solar than wind, this bill goes too far. First, FMM supports individual (not grid-scale) installation of rooftop solar all over New England, because widely deployed, it could reduce peak load (demand), which is the need for the few old (usually dirty) peaking plants in New England, including Maine's oil plant on Cousins Island. Second, with these last old regional plants retiring, the New England grid needs firm capacity, not the low quality electricity from wind and solar. Third, the scheme envisioned in this bill does no good for ratepayers or the environment, but it siphons massive ratepayer and taxpayer subsidies to so-called "investors" in a product that the market does not need and cannot afford to buy. FMM has opposed the RPS for years on these grounds. The public hearing is this Thursday.
Solar Demonstration Projects
LD 1310 would allow communities to take risks on low quality generation projects.
Back to Nukes
LD 1313 would remove the referendum requirement for installing nuclear plants that are small.
Stop the Madness
LD 1314 would make wide improvements to Maine's energy plan, particularly with respect to failed wind energy policies, similar to LD 1329.
LD 1315 would allow utilities to own generation in future affiliations, subject to strict standards and approvals.
LD 1339 would give the PUC a legislative charge to reduce the Standard Offer price below 10 cents, even if that requires suspension of renewables mandates.
Scenic Impact Legislation
LD 911 is important legislation that seeks to restore some reasonable scenic impact protections to the wind project siting requirements. With turbine heights now routinely topping 500 feet, with the increasing number of turbines per project, and with the cumulative number of projects coming to Maine, it is past time to protect Maine's Quality of Place. The public hearing might be in late April and should be announced soon.
Cost of Electricity Legislation
LD 1107 is a curious bill that seeks to do three things:
1. Mandate a 40% off-peak discount for electricity customers. This would be good for electric thermal storage heat, electric vehicles, etc. Much of the off-peak time is when New England electricity is cleanest (the dams and nuke plants can satisfy almost all demand).
2. Mandate T&D (poles and wires) rate discounts (to be determined) for electric customers who purchase power from new renewables (essentially wind). Of course, ratepayers buy electricity from the grid, not directly from any generator. Morever, wind is a driver of increased T&D rates, so seeking to discount it makes no sense.
3. Conduct a study of electricity costs. At the April 15 public hearing in the Utilities Committee, FMM will support just this provision, with caveats.
Please contact FMM with any questions.