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Maine Enacts Sweeping Renewable Energy Mandates

August 1, 2019
By Vivian Jones

Gov. Janet Mills of Maine signed into law several energy measures she has pushed as part of her commitment to fight purported human-caused climate change by reducing fossil fuel use.

Gov. Janet Mills of Maine signed into law several energy measures she has pushed as part of her commitment to fight purported human-caused climate change by reducing fossil fuel use.

Among the slate of bills Mills signed is one requiring Maine’s electric power providers, who are currently required to obtain 40 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, to provide 80 percent from such sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.

Another climate-related bill Mills signed on June 26 establishes a Maine Climate Council charged with developing plans to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Mills also signed legislation creating new incentives to install energy efficient heating systems and to increase the number and size of solar power projects in the state.

Costly Climate Effort

Maine has the 11th highest average electricity cost in the United States, at 13.02 cents per kilowatt hour. Research indicates the new laws are likely to cause the state’s electricity prices to rise, costing residents and businesses millions of dollars.

A study by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago shows seven years after a state imposes a renewable energy mandate (REM) a 1.8 percent increase in renewable energy generation results in an 11 percent increase in electricity prices, and after 12 years a 4.2 percent increase in renewable power produces a 17 percent rise in the cost of electricity.

The link between REMs and higher prices is confirmed by U.S. Energy Information Administration data showing electric power prices in the 29 states (and the District of Columbia) with REMs are 26 percent higher than in states without REMs.

Higher Prices, Economic Disruption

The energy price increases caused by Maine’s new mandates will be especially burdensome to low-income people, says Tim Benson, a policy analyst at The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“Renewable energy mandates are dramatically increasing retail electricity prices,” said Benson. “Altogether, the total extra electricity costs of REMs to consumers in the states that have enacted an REM are $125.2 billion.

“Unsurprisingly, in states with REMs, energy rates are rising twice as fast as the national average, and states with renewable mandates had electricity prices 26 percent higher than those without,” Benson said. “It is unlikely the state can meet Mills’ emission reduction goals without causing serious disruption to Maine’s economy, with poorer Mainers bearing the brunt of the effects, as low-income families spend a far larger percentage of their incomes on their electric bills.”

‘Bad Idea All Around’

In addition, Maine’s new laws are likely to harm the environment instead of helping, says Benson.

“Expanding Maine’s wind and solar facilities will destroy thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, but even then, because they are too intermittent to effectively power a society, they must be backed up by reliable conventional sources like coal or natural gas,” Benson said.

“Renewable energy mandates force expensive, heavily subsidized, and politically favored electricity sources such as wind and solar on ratepayers and taxpayers while providing few, if any, net environmental benefits,” Benson said. “This is a bad idea all around.”

Vivian E. Jones (vivianejones@aol.com) writes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Official Connection

Gov. Janet Mills (D-ME): https://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/home; https://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/contact