Maine is at a crossroads in its climate and energy future. For the state to move forward and embrace a consumer-friendly, low-polluting clean energy future, its biggest utility, Central Maine Power (CMP), must dramatically change the way it does business and do much more to support consumer and community access to solar, wind, building weatherization, and clean technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps. Up to this point, CMP has frequently blocked these measures. It is time for CMP to change.
As a whole, Maine has struggled to make progress toward a clean energy future, falling behind its New England neighbors despite strong calls from Mainers and their communities for more clean solutions. Governor Mills understands the threats climate change poses to Maine’s economy and way of life. She has committed the state to the Paris Climate Accords among other steps. But for her attempts to gain ground, the state’s utility companies must also reform and stop putting roadblocks in the path to progress.
For instance, Maine prevents its communities from adopting advanced building energy codes. Maine bars community choice aggregation and has consistently blocked efforts to more fairly compensate solar customers for the power they create. CMP must align its investments and rates with consumer interests so that they have access to clean energy options like rooftop and community solar.
CMP’s request for a certificate from the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for a proposed power line to transmit hydroelectricity from Canada to New England has raised a host of issues directly tied to core Maine concerns: the urgent need to reduce climate pollution from energy generation; reforming the role of the state’s utilities, particularly Central Maine Power; and whether the intrusion of this project in the Maine forest is appropriate.
Acadia Center is involved in issues surrounding the project because of the importance of these issues to Maine’s energy, economic, and consumer future. In the PUC proceeding, Acadia Center has joined with other parties to recommend that if the PUC issue a certificate for the project, it should impose a set of commitments on CMP to support clean energy and consumer access to new technologies. These conditions would require CMP to:
- Provide measurable benefits to Maine ratepayers and affected communities.
- Support Maine’s efforts to expand its clean energy economy.
- Increase access for Maine residents to clean transportation and clean distributed energy resources such as solar.
- Make CMP’s planning and decision-making more transparent to expand opportunities for alternative investments in solar, storage, and efficiency.
- Support a study examining pathways to achieve regional decarbonization goals.
Outside of the issues before the PUC, a review of whether the land use and siting impacts of the project are tolerable is pending at the Department of Environmental Protection. Acadia Center looks to the efforts underway by organizations engaged in the Department of Environmental Protection permit review process to determine if the impacts to Maine’s forests and natural landscape are acceptable. Acadia Center does not believe this project should proceed unless there is satisfactory resolution of the land use issues, in addition to consumer benefits, and the need by the state’s largest utility to work in concert with clean energy and climate values.
In addition, the energy companies involved—CMP, Avangrid, and Hydro-Quebec—must change in their willingness to provide transparent information, to allow the public to determine that the regional climate benefits of the project are real and will bear out over time.
Conditioning the PUC certificate with added requirements on CMP is only the beginning of the changes in direction CMP must undertake. The company cannot cite the climate benefits of this proposal while also blocking clean energy options for Maine consumers and communities. In order to decide if the project is good for Maine, the Northeast, and the global climate, the public needs to know more.
Acadia Center’s statements on the line and the proposed settlement filed with the PUC are available here.
Daniel L. Sosland is president of Acadia Center, a non-profit research and policy advocacy organization advancing the clean energy future at the state and regional levels. Dan’s efforts focus on developing and implementing comprehensive and sustained energy and climate policy solutions that attract diverse stakeholder support, utilizing a research oriented approach that incorporates consumer interests and economic benefits.