Maine needs renewables now more than ever

Thursday was a record-breaking scorcher in much of the Northeast, and ozone danger warnings were issued for southern Maine.

Oil prices shot up Wednesday as oil-producing countries failed to agree on increasing production targets.

Doctors warned, meanwhile, that asthma rates in the U.S. are soaring.

All this as Maine’s governor and Legislature move toward repealing renewable energy standards that the Maine Public Utilities Commission says are working admirably and costing Maine ratepayers almost nothing.

Something’s wrong with this picture, and it’s LD 1570, which would essentially stop Maine’s slow but steady progress toward renewable energy.

What’s more, it would threaten millions of dollars in new energy development in Maine and potentially kill hundreds of new jobs.

In 2007, the Legislature adopted an Act to Stimulate Demand for Renewable Energy. Beginning in 2008, it mandated that Maine utilities purchase 1 percent more renewable energy each year until the state reaches 10 percent in 2017.

If that seems ambitious, consider this: Germany, an industrial powerhouse, already gets 17 percent of its power from renewables, largely biomass and wind.

It now plans to replace its dependence on nuclear power with renewables, which will greatly accelerate its embrace of clean energy.

The European Union, meanwhile, will get 21 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, just after Maine is scheduled to hit half that mark.

Gov. Paul LePage argues that Maine has some of the highest energy costs in the U.S. and that costs here are “exploding.”

He’s partly right on the first count and dead wrong on the second.

Maine now has the lowest electric rates in New England. The region has higher rates than much of the nation because we have no access to cheap coal.

And Maine’s electric rates have increased modestly over the past decade, but at a slower rate than other New England states.

What’s more, most of the increases ratepayers have seen have been in transmission, not generation. As a large, rural state with no major urban areas, moving electricity to where it is needed is more expensive than in smaller, more tightly packed states.

As the PUC has found, the Renewable Energy Act has had only a little impact on higher consumer rates.

A Press Herald analysis, reviewed by the Maine PUC for accuracy, found the 2007 renewable energy requirement adds only $4.80 a year to the average residential electric bill.

That’s only 40 cents per month, for heaven’s sake!

Some in the Legislature, perhaps, are seeing LD 1570 as a way to stop the spread of wind power in the state.

It would do that, but the biggest impact will be on biomass producers. Nearly 80 percent of the benefit of the act has gone to biomass operators and paper companies that operate biomass plants.

Less than 20 percent has benefitted wind-power producers.

On another front, the Legislature is trying to strip energy efficiency standards from the state’s new building code.

Another mistake.

As many policymakers have pointed out, Maine is the most dependent state in the U.S. on petroleum, largely for home heating and transportation.

We need more efficient cars and homes, and we need renewable energy now more than ever.

The Legislature should reject LD 1570, and stick with our new energy-efficient building code.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

 's picture

This is just another big sign

This is just another big sign that LePage just doesn't get it. All through his campaign he talked about working to lower the high cost of energy in our state. Of course all that time he was lying about how high our energy costs really were, the figures were right there as The Sun Journal has found, that are rates are among the very lowest in the northeast part of the country. He just chose to ignore the facts because they did not match his agenda. Now with his proposed cut to the renewable energy requirement, he hopes to capitalize on the headline of a drop in rates (4.80 a year) which is actually just a supposed drop with the assumption that gas and oil prices stabilize.
The way to reducing our cost of energy is through reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, oil and gas supplies are dwindling and prices will continue to climb. Maine has a wealth of sources for renewable energy, wind, tidal, hydro, and bio mass are all available to help us stay cheap. LePage is an idiot for ignoring the facts.

CLAIRE GAMACHE's picture

The earth really is flat

The flat earth society is really out in force here. Even the oil industry executives will tell you that the oil, coal and gas that is easy to get to is all used up. The reason it is more expensive now they tell us is they have to go into deep water and use shale oil and fracking. All of these, besides being expensive, are damaging to the environment. See the BP spill, the poisoned ground water, and the mess that shale oil left behind in Canada and the clean coal myth. As for how expensive alternative energy sources are, I think it depends on your arithmetic. We are now at war on 4 fronts. Coincidentally all of them are somehow oil related. Add the cost of those wars to your price of oil and alternative energy probably looks a little better. I'm not saying that wind, solar or tidal or a combination of all three along with conservation measures is the answer. I do however think we need to keep looking for the answer because coal, gas and oil are definitely not the energy source of the future.

Gary Steinberg's picture

To all you Fools Investing in Renewables, I invested in Exxon!

Dense Energy Research Will always Win, Sorry, that is Thermodynamics!
from
Wall Street Journal 6/10/2011

Exxon Mobil Corp.'s huge new oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico is good news for domestic energy production, but it's even better news as a sign that last year's panic over the BP spill won't continue to cripple American offshore oil exploration. Every so often, reality triumphs over politics.

Exxon had been ready to drill on the site last year before the Obama Administration shut down all deepwater drilling in the wake of the BP spill. The Interior Department is still issuing very few permits, only 15 for new wells since it lifted its moratorium in October, but Exxon received one of them and struck black gold at 7,000 feet below sea level and some 230 miles at sea.

That's nearly 3,000 feet deeper than BP's Macondo well and shows how technology and innovation have opened up oil and gas resources that were impossible to detect, much less reach and develop, only a few years ago. Exxon estimates the field contains some 700 million barrels of oil equivalent, one of the largest finds of the last decade.
The great energy irony of recent years is that governments have thrown hundreds of billions of dollars at wind, solar, ethanol and other alternative fuels, yet the major breakthroughs have taken place in the traditional oil and natural gas business. Hydraulic fracturing in shale, horizontal drilling and new seismic techniques are only the best known examples.
Private companies must innovate to survive, and they have the profit incentive to do so, while government cash is usually steered to politically favored companies that may or may not know what they're doing. If you live off federal grants, you need to work the corridors of power more than the technology. Federal grants for cellulosic ethanol are rife with political earmarks, for example. This is why these columns have argued that the political fad of alternative energy has misallocated scarce capital when the economy can least afford it.
The risk of oil spills has not vanished. But one lesson of the BP debacle is that better management and practices could have prevented it. The Obama Administration is making it harder to obtain permits, which will eliminate all but the biggest companies from deepwater drilling and (unfortunately) raise the cost of production.

Far more important for safety is the effort that the oil industry is taking to contain future deepwater spills. ConocoPhillips, Exxon, Shell and Chevron have led an effort, since joined by other companies, to form the Marine Well Containment Co. to build a spill containment system that will be permanently placed in the Gulf starting next year.
The companies are attempting to apply the lessons from the BP fiasco, and their expectation is that the system would be able to handle a blowout as if it were a contained well at depths of up to 10,000 feet. The companies have committed $1 billion to the project, and we're told the cost could reach $1.5 billion. If you believe Big Oil companies are inherently evil, you'll think this is one more confidence trick. But no rational company or CEO wants to endure the reputational damage that accompanied the BP spill.

The Exxon discovery is a display of the animal spirits that still live in the U.S. energy industry, notwithstanding the political efforts to stifle them. As much as Washington tries, the U.S. economy is hard to keep down.
as for Renewables...well , try again in 100 years with the Blowtoys!

Gary Steinberg's picture

Let's Not Be Renewable Energy Children!

LePage gets it more thn many do.

It is long overdue for the Wind Industry to be forced to run the real numbers and utilize real physics.

The only one who stands to gain anything seems to be the wind shills.

So here is the basic math if you are not math challenged. We don’t get what we pay for , ever , with the renewable scam.

Now , if you really want to subsidize, it (subsidization) must be looked at on a PER-UNIT of OUPUT Basis.
Renewable suck in the money for next to nothing in return.

In 2007, natural gas fired electricity got just .$25 per megawatt hour federal subsidization and natural gas produced more than 900 million megawatt hours of electricity on demand , base load 24/7/365 days a year! (EIA official stats).
In 2007,wind produced 31 million MW-hrs! (EIA data), at $23.37 subsidized per MW-hr !
The wind power sector therefore got 93 times as much in federal subsidies as natural gas , even though the natural gas sector produced 28 times more electricity than wind, of high value base load!
Remember gas gets .$25 (25 cents)mW-hr.Wind got $23.37 MW-hr subsidization
Gas generated 900 million MW-hrs! Gas was subsidized 25 cents ($.25) per MW hr.
Feckless wind generated 31 million Mg-watt hours! Subsidized $23.37 per MW-hr!

And also remember, natural gas was available 24/7/365, wind has no base load capacity. Wind is highly intermittent and was not available on demand and has no base load capacity.
(This is all official Energy Information Administration Data )

WE CAN’T AFFORD THE WIND FARCE ANY LONGER! Business cannot afford power at over double the price, sometimes when the wind blows!
Wind is intermittent , non –base load power. YOU NEVER GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. THERE IS NOTHING MAGICAL about the electrons Wind produces, other than the fact they are very costly!
Gas, Hydro, other high density sources of electrons are the only way to go.
And the new domestic shale gas reserves of 2500 trillion cubic feet will last this country a very long time!

Let’s be adults here and do the right thing concerning energy, not fad following global warming children.

Gary Steinberg's picture

We Can't Afford the Scam any Longer, Others See Why as Well

LePage has done his homework. And he actually represents rate and taxpayers interests'--how refreshing!

MORNING ROUNDUP: Dominion Will Not Choose Offshore Wind Until Price Drops
Wed, May 11, 2011
http://offshorewindwire.com/20...
March 11, 2011; Source Offshore Wind Biz: Headline:
KENTISH Flats operator Vattenfall has warned that the offshore wind farm industry must reduce its costs or risk “dying out.”
http://www.offshorewind.biz/20...
Constellation Opposes Offshore Wind Power Mandates
March 7, 2011 2:40 PM
BALTIMORE (AP) — Constellation Energy says requiring utilities to buy offshore wind power will cost customers billions at the expense of more cost-effective clean-energy alternatives.
http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/...
Cape Wind cost:
"Global Marine Energy Lessons Learned:Offshore Cable Installation"September 2010"Lesson: Offshore Wind is Too Expensive!" (page 20) http://www.globalmarine-energy...

The Cape Wind NGrid D.P.U. approved contract assumes 24.4 cents per kWh is commercially reasonable on behalf of Massachusetts’ residents, employers, municipalities, commercial and industrial customers in the 170 communities served by National Grid. (3.)
'It Is Easy to Be Green — When SomeoneElse Pays the Bill'
Jonathan A. Lesser is founder and president of Continental Economics Inc.
Jonathan A. Lesser, Ph.D. President

“…The initial purchase price under the contract was set at $207per megawatt-hour in 2013, increasing 3.5 percent each year.Thus, by the end of the contract, the price would be just under35 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, National Grid’s ratepayerswould pay an even higher price because the Green CommunitiesAct also includes a 4 percent “adder” that accrues to the utilitysigning the long-term contract, raising the price paid by ratepayersto $215 per MWh. The contract also included provisions toincrease the price in the event that Cape Wind did not qualify foreither the federal investment tax credit or the federal productiontax credit. Without either of those, the initial price would increaseto $235 per MWh and, adding in the 4 percent adder, ratepayerswould pay $244 per MWh.”

Continue reading:
http://www.cato.org/pubs/regul... The Thanet wind farm will milk us of billions
The media remain conspicuously silent about the real price we pay for wind energy, says Christopher Booker.
In all the publicity given to the opening of "the world's largest wind farm" off the Kent coast last week, by far the most important and shocking aspect of this vast project was completely overlooked. Over the coming years we will be giving the wind farm's Swedish owners a total of £1.2 billion in subsidies. That same sum, invested now in a single nuclear power station, could yield a staggering 13 times more electricity, with much greater reliability.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/com...
This is not about public interest served by reliable and affordable energy. This is about public subsidies and turf courted

Gary Steinberg's picture

Maine Needs Renewables Like A Hole in Ones Head, Besides..

We have plenty of Hydro and other competitive sources than we need NOW!

Why is the U.S. going Broke though?

Why Does Maine stay poor?

This is a great example why. Wind Power in Maine.

We subsized First Wind at high levels, upwards of 70 percent, WITH OUR U.S. DOLLARS.
They build projects with our federal taxes , "tax incremental funding" dumb towns give them more local tax money and give away their municipal taxes for multimilion dollar projects, so First Wind can get more tax breaks with our dollars.
The towns smile because they get a new fire engine from the deal. The taxes of the town go up, because of lost tax base.

First Wind buys Chinese Turbines with our U.S. dollars, and then spin the company and development dollar to Canadian companies (or Spanish in the case of CMP) as we then PAY for THE POWER LINES to deliver next to no power, feckless power out of state.

Some temporary construction jobs are created, and we call it job growth in MAINE!
I guess this state even dumber than it is desperate.

We Mainers THEN PAY THE HIGHER electric RATES for power AGAIN, AND WE ALLOW BREACHING MAINE LAW with this combination of a generator and a transmission company (Bangor Hydro), and rates go up again FOR MAINERS!

But we do get the wind sprawl and financial and ecologic damage, and the sole of the state is destroyed. Vacationland dies a slow death to the wind.

Not only are WE BROKE FROM THIS ENRON SCAM, WE ARE DUMB TO PERMIT IT to continue!

NOTE, First Wind now has more projects in Maine (and growing), than ANY state in New England.

ARE WE THE DUMBEST state in New England, or the most desperate?

You answer please.
Yes , aren't renewables great, and needed?

 's picture

wind

wind= 75% does not blow, 5% "parasitic" draw from grid, 10-30% loss in transmission.

turbines kill bats bird and bugs. blasting alters water tables. no water.....no life.

wind is not the answer and i cannot believe germany is still pursuing it as a viable future.

 's picture

Straight from the Wind Industry

Do you ever do any research? Do you ever consider the facts about renewable energy sources? This editorial reads like it was written by the wind industry and I'm sure they are in your editorial offices all the time spinning their lies. The Governor is right. We already do more than any other state in the union when it comes to percentage of our electricity generation from renewables. The issue here is mandates and bad public policy that now and in the future costs us more due to the mandates.
It costs us more right now because the TAXPAYERS SUBSIDIZE wind far more per megawatt hour than any other source (USEIA, wind $23.37/mwh; next highest is nuclear $1.59/mwh; biomass, which we could do a lot in Maine 89 cents) Plus wind industry sells RECs, which is a not-so-hidden carbon tax that is passed on to consumers. In the future, when Congress actually gets rid of subsidies, we will be left with mandates to take electricity from this source at 3-4 times the cost of natural gas generated electricity. Finally, what the wind industry dodges as a cost and you don't mention either, is the tremendous cost of new infrastructure and expensive technology to integrate ever increasing amounts of skittering surges of wind power into the grid.
The Governor is right and you are absolutely wrong. Supporting ever increasing mandates for Mainers and continuing participation in RGGI which is driving other states' renewable energy portfolios resulting in placing more turbines in rural Maine is a ruinous policy. Thank you Gov. LePage for understanding this and continuing the quest to bring down our electricity costs.

 's picture

Straight from the Wind Industry

Do you ever do any research? Do you ever consider the facts about renewable energy sources? This editorial reads like it was written by the wind industry and I'm sure they are in your editorial offices all the time spinning their lies. The Governor is right. We already do more than any other state in the union when it comes to percentage of our electricity generation from renewables. The issue here is mandates and bad public policy that now and in the future costs us more due to the mandates.
It costs us more right now because the TAXPAYERS SUBSIDIZE wind far more per megawatt hour than any other source (USEIA, wind $23.37/mwh; next highest is nuclear $1.59/mwh; biomass, which we could do a lot in Maine 89 cents) Plus wind industry sells RECs, which is a not-so-hidden carbon tax that is passed on to consumers. In the future, when Congress actually gets rid of subsidies, we will be left with mandates to take electricity from this source at 3-4 times the cost of natural gas generated electricity. Finally, what the wind industry dodges as a cost and you don't mention either, is the tremendous cost of new infrastructure and expensive technology to integrate ever increasing amounts of skittering surges of wind power into the grid.
The Governor is right and you are absolutely wrong. Supporting ever increasing mandates for Mainers and continuing participation in RGGI which is driving other states' renewable energy portfolios resulting in placing more turbines in rural Maine is a ruinous policy. Thank you Gov. LePage for understanding this and continuing the quest to bring down our electricity costs.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Maine needs renewables now more than ever

. .Gotta' love ME ( and this newspaper :)
Ed. board : we represent the only two States in this blessed union to offer $.05 US for cans anymore . HI and VT have no billboards , too :) The ME State Legislature should reject LD 1570, and stick with the new energy-efficient building code ? The cat's out of the bag already . Pandora's box has been opened , esteemed legislators ref : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_Maine The time they are a changin' again & Alo'ha from Pahoa HI 96778 USA , the home of substantial U S geothermal energy supported by none other than Ted Turner's millions US$$ --> http://www.punageothermalventure.com/ <- Not an endorsement but it is quite literally " . .. In My Back Yard ." h t h ( hope this helps :)

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