Maine’s Energy Committee successfully fought back LePage’s misguided policies

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

June 5th, 2012 

Rep. Alexander Cornell du Houx testifies on his bill before the state Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.
Democratic lawmakers on the state Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee successfully held back Gov. Paul LePage’s efforts to ram through sweeping energy proposals that would have undercut energy efficiency and Maine’s renewable-energy standards.

“Maine’s energy policies have been a beacon of economic growth, creating jobs and yielding lower energy costs,” said Rep. Alex Cornell du Houx, who serves on the committee. “Our renewable-energy standard gives investors confidence because the policy shows that Maine is committed to alternative energy sources. We must continue to invest in and prioritize energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

Maine’s investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy has created more than 12,000 jobs in the state.

Governor John Baldacci, working with the Legislature, created the Efficacy Maine Trust as an independent trust dedicated to promoting the efficient and cost-effective use of energy in order to save money for Maine residents and businesses, grow the economy, and to create jobs. In 2010, An Act Regarding Maine’s Energy Future was passed into law to decrease our dependency on oil. The law established the goal to weatherize all residences and 50 percent of businesses by 2030 and to reduce the state’s consumption of liquid fossil fuels by at least 30 percent by 2030.

Energy efficient methods and alternative energy sources promoted by Maine’s established laws are helping residents, businesses, schools, and municipalities save money by lowering their heating and electricity bills.

One of LePage’s proposals undercut the Efficiency Maine Trust and would have given him more authority over the trust agency, which is overseen by an independent apolitical board.

Another of LePage’s proposals would have allowed certain power generators, like large-scale Canadian hydropower producers, to qualify for the state’s renewable-energy portfolio, which encourages the development of alternative energy sources.

“The governor’s hydro proposal would have taken money from Maine people to give to a government-owned company in another country,” said Rep. Jon Hinck, who is the lead House Democrat on the Energy Committee. “This would do nothing to lower Maine energy prices but would certainly benefit Hydro Quebec.”

Maine currently spends less per capita on energy efficiency than all of the New England states, but the need is greater because the majority of homes are older.

The governor has been a strong public critic of energy efficiency and conservation, despite its proven effectiveness. Last year, LePage called conservation a “Ponzi scheme.”

Last year, Efficiency Maine completed thousands of weatherization projects, saving homeowners 30 to 40 percent or more in annual energy bills — calculated at $1.16 per gallon of heating oil.

“Absolutely nothing in the [LePage’s] bill funded weatherization, which actually helps put more money in the pockets of middleclass families and small businesses,” said Rep. Roberta Beavers, who serves on the committee.

Maine’s high energy costs severely impact household and business budgets each winter, as the state is the most oil dependent in the nation.

“Elected officials should be looking at how we can boost efficiency and homegrown renewable power, not undercut it,” said Rep. Louis Luchini, who also serves on the committee “The governor’s proposals would have moved Maine in the wrong direction.”