Maine’s energy policies creating opportunity and jobs for Maine businesses

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

September 28th, 2012 

Today, the Maine Renewable Energy Association (MREA) — whose members sustainably manufacture electricity from biomass, hydropower, wind, waste-to-energy, and tidal – highlighted a study, “MPUC RPS Report 2011 – Review of RPS Requirements and Compliance in Maine,” completed for the Maine Public Utilities Commission by London Economics International, LLC (LEI).

“This study helps articulate the importance of what a consistent and predictable state energy policy can provide for Maine in terms of economic and employment benefits,” said Jeremy Payne, Executive Director.  “We know there were those who questioned whether the costs outweighed the benefits, but the London Economics report makes it crystal clear how important this policy is to Maine’s economic growth. The LEI report showed us that Maine stands to see the creation of nearly 200 jobs per month over the next five years.”

The study’s findings include:

  • Regional Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) policies in Maine and New England will create 11,700 jobs in Maine over several years, while the cost of the RPS for consumers may reduce employment by 32-129 jobs. The gain far outweighs any losses.

  • Will lead to $1.14 billion of new investment, and grow the Gross State Product by 2 percent over several years; the study described how new renewable power and “investment in Maine renewable generation has the potential to be a meaningful contributor to the state’s gross state product.”

  • Under current law, the average Maine resident pays 37 cents on their monthly bill for the RPS program; when Maine reaches the 10 percent standard the price could increase to $0.70 – $1.72 on the average monthly bill.

“The fact of the matter is the renewable energy industry has injected a tremendous amount of investment capital into the state over the last twelve years – over $2 billion has been spent on Maine facilities.  MREA members pay nearly $20 million annually in property taxes, and many of these projects are in rural Maine, which has been particularly hard hit by the economic recession,” explained Payne.

Additionally, the LEI report found that many of the state’s largest consumers of electricity, pulp and paper mills, had repositioned their assets to capitalize on the revenue available to them from renewable energy policies.  Gov. Paul LePage wants to restructure the RPS. Changing the rules in the middle of the game would strongly discourage this type of re-investment and ultimately lead to a greater reliance on finite and polluting fuel sources.

Interestingly, an analysis from last year found that from 2005-2010 the five states with the highest solar and wind power capacity (22.4GW) experienced a cost increase per kWh substantially below the national average.  Moreover, the five states with the least amount of solar and wind capacity (.001GW) experienced a higher cost increase than states with considerable renewable energy capacity.

Maine’s business community has greatly benefited from the RPS program, which helps to incent projects based in Maine and New England – with well in excess of 300 Maine businesses having worked to construct, support, and maintain the state’s existing renewable energy assets.

The LEI report was commissioned by the Maine Public Utilities Commission in response to a request from the Legislature via Legislative Document 1570.

Upon review of its findings, the Legislature rejected attempts to eliminate or weaken the RPS.

Today  Gov. LePage touted the study, The Economic Impact of Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, conducted by the Maine Heritage Policy Center, an ultra right wing conservative think tank. This report criticizes Maine’s RPS system.

“This study shows that special interests are hurting Maine’s economy and costing us jobs,” said LePage.