Weekly Address of Governor Paul LePage: Maine in great position to serve as gateway to low-cost Canadian electricity

Posted on November 24, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Audio link here.

Hello. This is Governor Paul LePage.

As the seasons change and winter weather approaches Mainers look to find ways to reduce energy costs. Now is also the time to think about Maine’s use of energy as well as our own homes’ use of energy.

Maine needs a truly free energy market. I emphasized the importance of lowering our energy costs during my campaign. Creating ways to make this happen remains a priority of my administration. Recent events and reports show how Maine could better compete in the global economy if we had a competitive energy market that allows consumers their choice of resources.

Maine homeowners and small businesses have waited a dozen years to access the competitive pricing lawmakers promised in 2000, when they deregulated the state’s electricity industry. Now that competition has arrived, more than one hundred and fifty-thousand families are electricity-rate shopping from companies like Electricity Maine, Dead River, C.N. Brown, Fairpoint, and Gulf Oil. They pay rates far cheaper than the regulated “standard offer” negotiated by the Public Utilities Commission.

New technologies have made natural gas an excellent alternative for both power generation, which would further decrease the cost of electricity, and for heating homes and powering businesses.

Natural gas costs less than half of what it was five years ago. Daniel Yergin, author of The Quest: Energy, the Modern World, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that America’s growing natural gas supplies are generating a renewal in certain manufacturing industries. The drop in natural gas prices is spurring chemical companies to plan on investing billions of dollars in new factories in the United States. Yergin notes that, in the future, China’s historical advantage in cheap labor could be offset by cheap energy in our country.

Maine must be poised to take advantage of this—for both our people and economy. A new report by the New England Council and Deloitte noted that the cost to make a highly engineered product is only 2 percent higher in Maine than in the Southern United States. In comparison, Boston is roughly 33 percent more expensive. Lowering our energy cost would make us even more competitive within New England and the United States.

Deloitte makes several suggestions to improve Maine’s energy infrastructure by making it more reliable and diversifying our energy resources. In fact, it references our dependency on heating oil and encourages us to switch to alternative fuels. In addition to natural gas, our state has an abundance of natural resources we can use to produce energy. Wood pellets are a good example. Thermal storage technologies, like geothermal, can also lower heating costs. For power generation, Maine’s hydro, biomass and tidal power options are renewable, lower in cost, and cleaner than coal and oil.

Regulations now block our ability to take advantage of the abundance of resources out there. Studies indicate that Maine’s current Renewable Portfolio Standards Law, which mandates the minimum amount of energy consumers must purchase from various sources, will raise the cost of electricity in Maine by 8 percent in the next five years.

We need to reform our energy laws and remove the 100-megawatt limitation on renewable energy sources. This cap prevents us from taking advantage of the free market and new technologies. Getting rid of the cap would allow us to produce more renewable energy, import low-cost Canadian renewable energy, and make our state more competitive in the global economy.

Maine is in a great position to serve as a gateway to low-cost Canadian electricity. The money that could be realized by transferring power from Canada to southern New England would help offset our current energy costs and be directed into improving Maine’s economy.

Therefore, as we begin this heating season and prepare for the winter and legislative session ahead, think about what you could do if you spent less on energy and let your legislators know that you’d prefer to keep that extra money in your own pocket.

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