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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:

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.

What you need to know about the CMP transmission line proposed for Maine

The New England Clean Energy Connect would run from the Canadian border to Lewiston.

It would be a high voltage, direct current transmission line that would run 145 miles from Beattie Township, a small community on the Canadian border, to Lewiston, where it would connect to the New England electric grid. The line is expected to cost $950 million, which would be paid for by Massachusetts.

Most of the line would run overhead on 100-foot towers. It would, however, run under the Kennebec River between Moxie Gore and West Forks, a concession Central Maine Power made to residents worried about the impact a line over the river would have on the area’s scenery and tourism industry. The line would then run overhead to Lewiston, where CMP would build a $250 million conversion station.

Read the full article from Bangor Daily News here.