A legislative committee heard support and objections of Gov. Paul LePage's four-pronged energy proposal that he says will reduce costs and expand options. Opponents, however, say it will take money away from energy-efficiency programs and compromise the work of Efficiency Maine.
As submitted, the four bills would allow hydro power above 100 megawatts to be considered renewable, require the Legislature to approve the Efficiency Maine Trust budget and create a rebate program for home-heating equipment. Specifically, the bill allows residents to get loans from the utilities to buy electric heating systems, and the Efficiency Maine Trust would be required to guarantee the loans, according to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co. support the plan, but oil and propane dealers said the proposal unfairly benefited electricity utilities and opposed the use of ratepayer money to convert to electric heat, according to the Portland Press Herald.
The debate before the Legislature's Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee also centered around the Efficiency Maine Trust. Created in 2009 by the Legislature, the trust administers energy-efficiency programs. Ken Fletcher, director of the Office of Energy Independence and Security, said increased oversight was needed in the wake of the Maine Turnpike Authority's financial mismanagement. But some lawmakers and the Natural Resources Council of Maine disagreed, arguing that increased governmental control would leave the money vulnerable to re-appropriation for other uses.
The committee is expected today to continue debating the governor's proposal.