Maine’s Biggest Utility Must Change to Make Way for Clean Energy
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.
Conditions Reached on Hydropower Line Seek a Shift to Clean Energy in Maine
Acadia Center continues to push for more climate, clean energy and consumer benefits
ROCKPORT, ME – Parties in a proceeding reviewing whether the Maine PUC should issue a certificate for Central Maine Power’s proposed hydropower line through Maine have entered into a settlement that requires significant consumer and clean energy commitments. Acadia Center engaged in the settlement negotiations as a means to seek increased cooperation from CMP in transitioning to a clean energy future. The settlement provisions submitted to the Maine PUC today incorporate conditions that Acadia Center and Conservation Law Foundation sought directly from CMP under a Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU provisions are necessary to advance climate and clean energy efforts in Maine, amplify benefits for the state, and address changes needed at CMP.
“The greatest threat to Maine’s forest and traditions like fisheries and winter recreation is a warming climate,” noted Acadia Center president, Daniel Sosland. “Maine’s utilities must realign their management practices to support a rapid shift from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas to sources that produce less climate pollution, such as solar, wind and many kinds of hydropower. It is past time for CMP to embrace clean energy and climate efforts, not obstruct them. The provisions in this settlement begin to take steps in that direction.”
The settlement will deliver consumer and community benefits to Mainers ranging from energy efficiency for low-income households, general rate relief, expansion of broadband infrastructure, and support for impacted host communities. Under the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding, CMP will begin to adopt more clean energy, resilience and other consumer-friendly and clean transportation measures for Maine. The proposed settlement only applies to the PUC-issued certificate and will be subject to further review. Issues addressing critical siting and land use impacts are being addressed in separate proceedings at the DEP.
Acadia Center believes that the project proponents must avoid, minimize or mitigate land use impacts and ensure clear, transparent accounting to verify regional climate benefits. Further, Acadia Center believes that CMP, Avangrid and its parent company Iberdrola must build on the commitments in the MOU and the settlement and move away from prior positions such as blocking expansion of solar and other clean energy technologies that will benefit Maine’s communities, homes and businesses.
Acadia Center’s full statement on the New England Clean Energy Connect: http://acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Acadia-Center-Statement-NECEC-Line_2019-02-21.pdf
Memorandum of Understanding between Acadia Center, CLF, and CMP: https://acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/CLF-and-Acadia-Center-NECEC-Settlement-MOU-EXECUTED-VERSION-W7100223x7AC2E.pdf
Text of the Settlement: http://acadiacenter.staging.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/NECEC-CMP-Stipulation.pdf
Krysia Wazny McClain, Communications Director
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Deborah Donovan, Senior Policy Advocate
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