“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has contributed more than $92 million, and over 900 new jobs, to Maine’s economy since it was launched in 2009. This was a significant boost to our economy during some otherwise tough years. Most of the direct benefits of RGGI have come from investments in highly cost-effective energy efficiency,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director.
A year ago the Analysis Group conducted an independent analysis of the total costs and benefits Maine has experienced because of RGGI which backs up Vorrhees’ figures. Coming out of the recession alternative energy initiatives and energy efficiency jobs have helped Maine’s economy, while reducing electric bills for businesses and citizens who have put energy efficiency to use. Energy Efficiency Maine is a one-stop-shop for people to go to get help with energy efficiency. Many of their efforts are supported by RGGI funds.
Today the nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participating in the RGGI, the nation’s first cap-and-trade consortium, announced plans that would lower CO2 emissions 45 percent below 2005 levels.
“Regulated companies, nonprofits, consumer, and industry organizations have provided invaluable feedback throughout the two-year program review process to date,” said David Littell, a Commissioner of the Maine Public Utilities Commission and Vice-Chair of RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “With their input, we make today’s changes and project that by 2020 emissions will be more than 45 percent below 2005 levels.”
Littell was Maine’s Commission of the Department of Environmental Protection in the Baldacci administration and helped to bring the consortium together as well as secure a unanimous decision from the state legislature to proceed with formulating RGGI.
But Governor Paul LePage declared that he will propose legislation to redirect the revenue Maine receives from auctioning pollution credits with RGGI to reducing electricity costs. Maine already has the lowest electricity rates in New England. Experts say that Maine residents need more incentives, that are funded by RGGI, to help them weatherize their homes and businesses not a scheme to lower electric bills temporarily. Energy efficiency methods will create far greater savings than a few cents on electrical bills.
“The State of Maine’s support for modifying the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is contingent on significant State energy reforms to target these barriers to growing Maine’s economy,” said LePage’s Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Patricia Aho.
With Maine’s electric costs being the lowest in New England its a stretch to declare that as a “barrier.”
LePage’s proposal, which has yet to be submitted to the legislature for review, allocates RGGI auction funding for the purpose of reducing electricity rates for businesses and apparently targets heating costs for Maine families.
“It is vital that we keep building Maine’s economy by continuing to invest Maine’s RGGI funds in energy saving efficiency for businesses, homes and industry,” said Voorhees. “We will oppose strongly oppose any efforts to re-direct RGGI funds away from away from essential investments in energy efficiency, which is the single most effective way to lower energy costs for Maine consumers. We hope that policymakers will not seek to hold RGGI and energy saving efficiency investments hostage to a political agenda.”
Maine was one of the state’s that spearheaded the push to build the RGGI consortium cap-and-trade partnership. Proceeds from the 18 auctions have brought in over $34 million to the state, which has gone to energy efficiency programs and incentives for companies to transfer to cleaner energy solutions for power. Maine’s large manufacturers, including Madison Paper, Moose River Lumber, GAC Chemical, National Semiconductor, Twin Rivers Paper, Bucksport Mill and Jackson Labs have benefited from RGGI proceeds for energy programs.
The Bucksport Mill is now generating electricity that is sold back to the grid because RGGI investment funds helped the mill transition into producing biomass. RGGI proceeds are helping major business stay competitive by lowering their electrical rates, and diversifying their industries which results with the economy growing.
“Strengthening RGGI is one of the best ways we can reduce the pollution that causes global warming,” said Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor. “However, it’s critical that the revenue from the program is invested in energy efficiency, and that’s what Maine is doing right now. Energy efficiency locks in energy savings that lowers bills not just today but year after year.”