***Maine First Media Exclusive Op-Ed***
5/24/18, by Rep. Beth O’Connor
When you look at your energy bill in the coming years, prepare yourself for sticker shock!
A surge in energy costs for Maine families and businesses is coming — and it is thanks to a group of legislators who consistently stand in the way of lowering energy prices and solving the energy shortage looming in our near future.
But let me back up for a second.
A couple of weeks ago I was made aware of a letter sent to the Massachusetts PUC by Senator Saviello and Representative Tucker, co-chairs of the Environment and Natural Resource Committee and Senator David Woodsome and Representative Berry, co-chairs of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. I want to make it very clear that letter was NOT representative of either committee. In fact, other members of the two committees — including myself — were never even asked our opinions on this matter.
I find, number one, that it was disingenuous for these four legislators to use the official stationery of the 128th legislature. Number two, it was underhanded to take such a bold measure without the consent of the rest of the committees.
The actions of these four reflect only the view of those who stand to profit from expansions of solar and wind power.
I might add, the letter suspiciously looks nearly identical to the views of the Maine Natural Resource Council. I would bet money it was written by MNRC’s “staff scientist,” Nick Bennett. In fact, when questioned by James LaBrecque, the Governor’s Carbon Mitigation Specialist, Senator David Woodsome admitted he did not know what was in the letter or the effects it would have.
It never ceases to amaze me the lengths some will go to to keep their profit margins artificially inflated, while not giving a passing thought to the health and well being of our populace as a whole.
Now back to the topic at hand — the line connecting hydropower from Quebec to Massachusettes, running through Maine and benefitting everyone on the New England grid.
The actual projections for this project WILL benefit Maine people. The fact is, it will be an excellent start in securing the needed megawatts of electric energy in the very near future. Rejecting this project — as Saviello, Tucker, Woodsome and Berry have — could have severe negative impacts for Mainers. For instance, failure to enact this project could result in rolling brownouts and blackouts throughout the New England Grid. Frankly, I find what this Ganggreen of Four is attempting irresponsible at best.
These legislators are not trying to protect Maine people. They are only protecting intermittent and non-dispatchable, very expensive, energy sources. Energy sources that can NEVER, ever meet the required energy we need to feed the ISO New England Grid.
I have on multiple times tried to lift the 100-Megawatt cap on hydro-electric power in Maine. And without fail, every time it is the same people who sing songs of doom-and-gloom. They claim it will be the end of the world if we do this. Here’s how the song goes:
Biomass, solar and wind power companies argue the measure would change the rules of the game after they’ve invested millions. They claim large Canadian hydro plants could crowd out the smaller players.
And every time these “alternative energy” lobbies win the battle; it’s the people of Maine losing the war.
Here are the facts the biomass, solar and windpower lobbies don’t want you to know. Lifting just that 100-Megawatt cap would have saved Maine ratepayers about $12-Million annually. Better still, this new project — slated to deliver over 1,200 megawatts to the New England Grid — would probably save us four-times that amount. Instead, we have legislators siding with their favorite lobbies instead of fighting to save Maine families upwards of $60-Million on their energy bills.
Let me be very clear — we are facing unprecedented retirements in New England. And I don’t mean in the labor pool. I mean retirements of the energy sources we’ve relied on throughout our history. We need to be open to clean, renewable hydropower. With the ongoing withdrawal from oil, coal and nuclear plants, ISO New England estimates another 8,300 megawatts of generation capacity will be lost by 2020. They say we will require another 6,300 megawatts of gas-fired capacity to replace them.
I considered these legislators may be on a continued crusade to give the much hated Central Maine Power a public spanking. But it seems to me, if CMP — or another energy giant — does not step up to the plate and build the required infrastructure our New England energy appetite demands, then we are going to be in a very difficult situation.
The choices will be blowing off every mountaintop in Maine for wind power or $35-Billion worth of solar panels. Both options are completely unreliable. And both will increase our electric bills ten-fold.
Or, perhaps the Ganggreen of Four would prefer we continue using “dirty” oil and coal?
Rep. Beth O’Connor is a three-term Republican member of the Maine State House. She Represents Maine’s 5th district encompassing Berwick and part of North Berwick. Rep. O’Connor serves on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. When she’s not fighting to lower energy costs for Maine workers in the halls of the Capitol, Rep. O’Connor is a waitress with a husband, four children and a grandchild.