$88,736,259.67 million to date for Maine from RGGI

By Ramona du Houx

Maine earned $2,255,709.90 in The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) 37th auction of carbon dioxide allowances in June of 2017. RGGI is the nation’s first market-based regulatory program to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution and is viewed as a model for other regions.

 Since RGGI’s inception Maine has brought in $88,736,259.67 for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. Many of these programs and projects are managed through the Efficiency Maine Trust, set up by the Baldacci administration.

The September 6th auction was the third auction of 2017, and generated $62.5 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2 allowance auctions exceed $2.78 billion dollars.

Ten million cost containment reserve (CCR) allowances were also available for sale. None of the CCR allowances were sold. The CCR is a fixed additional supply of allowances that are only available for sale if CO2 allowance prices exceed certain price levels ($10 in 2017). This auction follows the RGGI states’ Aug. 23 announcement of consensus on a set of draft program elements that will guide the RGGI states as they conduct final economic analysis and establish a post-2020 path forward for the program. The recent proposal includes a regional cap trajectory that will provide an additional 30 percent cap reduction by the year 2030, relative to 2020 levels.

Sappi paper mill in Skowhegan, Maine. Since RGGI this mill has been forced to become cleaner- photo by Ramona du Houx

“The RGGI states’ recent announcement of proposed program improvements makes clear that we are advancing our collective leadership in carbon reduction through the next decade,” said Katie Dykes, Chair of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “As the RGGI states move forward with implementing these program improvements, this auction serves as a reminder of what has helped make the program so successful. The auctioning of allowances, and the reinvestment of proceeds in clean energy, energy efficiency, and other consumer benefit programs harnesses competition to create a virtuous cycle of pollution reduction.”

14,371,585 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.35. Bids for the CO2 allowances ranged from $2.15 to $6.66 per allowance. Additional details are available in the Market Monitor Report for Auction 37, which is also appended.

“The RGGI states continue to demonstrate leadership in transitioning to a clean energy economy,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “While actions to address climate change are stalled at the federal level, the RGGI states’ announcement of an additional 30 percent cap reduction shows that meaningful climate action is moving forward at the state level. The RGGI cap, together with the states’ reinvestment of auction proceeds in cleaner and more efficient energy, is improving public health, reducing electricity bills and creating jobs.”

In Maine, the program first started when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had lawmakers introduce a bill. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House.

“RGGI is still working and still helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation,” said State Representative Seth Berry, the House chair of the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

With ocean acidification on the rise Maine’s lobstermen are worried and have become proponents of RGGI. “Since RGGI’s inception in 2009, we have seen a 35 percent reduction in carbon emissions from power plants and substantial investments in energy efficiency across Maine,” said Richard Nelson a lobster fisherman and member of the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission and the Maine Regional Ocean Planning Advisory Group.

“Since its launch in 2005, the nine RGGI states have cut emissions from the electricity sector nearly in half while stimulating the creation of thousands of clean energy jobs and reaping more than a billion dollars in public health benefits providing a model for the nation for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “While actions to address climate change are stalled at the federal level, our states are enjoying the benefits of a transition to clean energy and we will continue to invest in preserving our environment and our economy for future generations.”

Photo: Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for offshore wind farm implementation - increasing wind energy was a big part of Baldacci's energy adgenda.

During Governor John Baldacci’s tenure his energy office developed a 50-year energy plan to help make the state energy independent. Many of the plans components of were implemented before Governor LePage took office, like becoming a member of RGGI.

Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels while bringing clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants for weatherization of homes and to help new alternative energy innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine.  

Photo: The prototype VolturnUS offshore floating wind platform and tower designed at UMaine with Dr. Dagher's team and initially funded by state bonds.

RGGI History —

The first pre-compliance RGGI auction took place in September 2008, and the program became effective on January 1, 2009.

In 2003, governors from Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont began discussions to develop a regional cap-and-trade program addressing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

On December 20, 2005, seven of those states announced an agreement to implement RGGI, as outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Governor's of Maine, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont. The MOU, as amended, provides the outlines of RGGI. New Jersey is the only state to opt-out of the program under Governor Christie’s leadership, missing out on millions of revenues.