Maine House Votes Against Lowering Energy Bills

3/16/18, Maine First Media Staff Report,

A bill to lift the caps on Canadian hydropower failed in the House Thursday.

LD 532, An Act To Remove the 100-Megawatt Limit on Hydroelectric Generators Under the Renewable Resources Laws, was voted down by a 73-64 margin. The vote broke down largely along party lines.

Lifting the cap on hydropower would lower energy costs for Maine homes and businesses. Gov. Paul LePage’s Special Advisor on Energy, James LaBrecque has said in several interviews it’s one of the best things the legislature could do to lower energy bills for Maine families.

However, the wind and solar lobbies are against lifting the caps.

Republican Rep. Beth O’Connor of Berwick was the bill’s lead sponsor. According to Rep. O’Connor, the government picking winners and losers based on special interest lobbying leaves Maine workers paying more for power.

“The mills, along with renewable energy companies, argued that the measure would change the rules of the game after they had invested millions,” Rep. O’Connor said. “They said large Canadian hydro plants could crowd out the smaller players. Indeed it could, but it could also lead to new innovative technology and investments in an effort to build a better product by those very same renewables.

Due to retirements of oil, coal and nuclear plants, ISO New England is estimating a loss of 8,300 megawatts of generation capacity by 2020. They say we will require another 6,300 megawatts of gas-fired capacity to replace them. Based on past performance, it is unlikely windpower investments will fill that void.

However, lifting the cap on hydropower would not only close the megawatt gap, but it would also lower energy costs.

“What it will do is remove an unfair advantage that some industries enjoy and open up a valid avenue for future investments from one of our most precious resources; the power from our rivers, lakes and tides,” Rep. O’Connor said.  “And place us in position to be considered for future investments for greater interconnection to hydropower Hydropower is green, clean and abundant and has the possibility of significantly reducing electricity costs to consumers and businesses.”

Rep. O’Connor isn’t the type of lawmaker to give up after a defeat. Expect to see more efforts from her to lower Mainer’s energy bills and make Maine player in the energy market in all of New England in future sessions.