Gov. Baldacci’s radio address on clean energy progress

By Ramona du Houx

December 5th, 2010 

Major announcements in recent weeks have demonstrated that Maine is on the right path for energy security and independence. Long before oil prices spiked to record levels, helping to push the global economy into recession, our State was working aggressively to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It’s a long-term effort that will require continued work and attention.

The United States economy has been built, in part, on the availability of cheap fuel.But the dependency that grew from those supplies has left us in a precarious situation. We rely on some of the most dangerous and unstable places in the world to feed our oil habit, costing our country billions of dollars and putting at risk our national security.Instead of being able to count on cheap gas, you can count instead on prices rising as our economy starts to grow again.

Maine’s efforts to develop renewable sources of energy are working, bringing direct benefits to communities and providing new sources electricity. Wind power generators are creating new jobs, lowering tax bills and supporting communities around our State. And our research and development into offshore, renewable energy has the world talking.

Last week, the United States Department of Interior launched an effort to simplify the process for federal offshore energy developments. Working with Maine and other states, the Department revised its regulations to eliminate redundancy and grant permits more quickly. The effort is similar to the work done in Maine by the Ocean Energy Task Force and the Wind Energy Task Force, which both developed new permitting systems to make it more efficient to invest in renewable energy development.

To be clear, the goal has never been to avoid close scrutiny. Every proposal must pass a rigorous assessment.Instead, we have created a predictable and timely process designed to give would-be projects an answer about whether they can proceed. Sometimes that answer is yes, and sometimes it is no. But the revised structure and stable regulatory environment make it predictable and attractive to investors.

Other work that we have done has also put Maine in a position to take advantage of a significant energy deal in Eastern Canada.

Earlier this month, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland agreed to jointly develop the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project. During the announcement, the provinces included their plans to send some of the electricity to markets in New England. And their plans include a transmission line through New Brunswick right to Maine’s borders. Our State becomes critical to their plans. And the project provides a unique and exciting opportunity for us.

Because of legislation passed by my Administration and the last Legislature, we are positioned to benefit. With the ability to negotiate long-term energy contracts, the Maine Public Utilities Commission can negotiate with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland on lower electric rates for our consumers.

The new energy resource will provide cleaner and cheaper competition into the New England market, helping to take offline older and dirtier power plants. And rates could go down.

In addition, corridor legislation also passed by the last Legislature will ensure that Maine sees a direct benefit from energy passing through our State to the rest of New England. Maine has tremendous wind power resources, both onshore and offshore. But wind power is intermittent. There are times when the weather just doesn’t cooperate. Hydroelectric power is an excellent partner for wind, adding new strength to our own homegrown sources of energy.

There is no single solution to end our dependency on oil. But if we stay true to proven methods of reducing consumption, such as weatherization and conservation, and we continue to pursue renewable alternatives, we can make progress. In recent years, Maine’s energy policies have been driven largely by pragmatism and cooperation. Democrats and Republicans have worked together for the good of their State.It’s paying off, and making us more secure, creating jobs and boosting our economy.

If we stay vigilant and determined, and continue to work together, that trend will continue.