Latest RGGI auction brings in close to $1,8 million - $83 million in total for Maine

By Ramona du Houx

The results of the 34th auction The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances was announced on December 7th auction, and generated $52.5 million for the nine participatory states. The 34th auction garnered $1,775,497 for Maine.

To date RGGI has brought in $83,612,946.15 to the state of Maine 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 Governor John Baldacci. 

RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.

The program, first started in Maine when Governor 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 working. It is 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, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

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. This year, the program is under review, and proponents are seeking to reduce emissions by 5 percent per year from 2020 to 2030 and a doubling of our renewable power supply. The decisions made now will ensure we take full advantage of the initiative to achieve cost-effective, long-term climate goals. Action to achieve these goals would go a long way in sustaining Maine’s fisheries, both as part of what makes Maine special and the economic drivers they have become,” Richard Nelson, lobster fisherman for more than 30 years, member of the Maine Ocean Acidification Commission and the Maine Regional Ocean Planning Advisory Group.

States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs continue to spur innovation in the clean energy economy and create good paying jobs in the RGGI states.

“RGGI continues to make strides toward a cleaner electricity system while also providing revenue for each state.  Maine continues to benefit from program participation,” said Commissioner Carlisle McLean, who also serves as the RGGI Inc. Treasurer.

There were 14,791,315 CO2 allowances sold in the auction at a clearing price of $3.55. Bids for allowances ranged from $2.10 to $13.75 per allowance.

“Independent reports have found the reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is creating jobs, reducing consumers’ utility bills, and boosting state economies while driving down carbon emissions,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Our reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is supporting Governor Cuomo’s transformational clean energy and energy efficiency goals to generate 50 percent of New York’s energy from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030, ushering in the low-carbon economy essential to the wellbeing of future generations.”

photo: by Ramona du Houx. Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for a floating wind farm implementation.

Governor Baldacci also had a 50-year energy plan, which many components of have been implemented before Governor LePage took office. Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels and bring 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 with Dr. Habib Dagher.

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.