Testimony: Opening Energy Markets by eliminating the 100MW Cap (LDs 43 & 622)


Testimony in Support of to LD 43: “An Act to Reduce the Cost of Electricity by Removing the 100-megawatt Limit on Renewable Resources of Energy,” and LD 622, “An Act to Create Equal Opportunity Access to Clean Energy by Removing the 100-megawatt Limit on Clean Energy Sources”

Senator Lawrence, Representative Zeigler, and the distinguished members of the Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Technology, my name is Nick Murray and I serve as director of policy for Maine Policy Institute. We are a free market think tank, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on LD 43 and LD 622.

We commend the sponsors of these two bills for identifying a much-needed change in Maine’s energy policy. LD 43 and LD 622 would strike the 100-megawatt capacity limitation for energy generation sources other than wind and solar power under the definition of “renewable resource” in Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) program.

Today, the state only recognizes clean energy projects larger than 100-megawatts to be “renewable” if they generate electricity via wind or solar power. Why does the capacity of a particular generation project matter if the technology used generates no emissions and contributes to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, the stated goal of the RPS program?

This question alone highlights the farce that is RPS. Instead of being aligned to environmental health and the goal of making power without harmful emissions, it instead has become a cudgel for activists and politicians to mold the state and its residents to their radical values.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that the environmental activists who pushed this scheme through in the first place are right to forcibly restrict energy production that emits greenhouse gasses, because of the effects on the global climate. Today, various cutting-edge energy production technologies which also do not produce greenhouse gas emissions may not count toward the state’s renewable energy goals. Why not?

Since the inception of RPS, the only technologies which may be considered “renewable,” no matter the size of the project, are wind and solar power. Given the state’s ambitious renewable energy portfolio goals, one would think that those who support renewable energy would not want to limit what sorts of clean power generation will count as “renewable.” 

Is it any wonder why only solar and wind—despite being among the lowest generation capacity resources per square mile and requiring mountains of government subsidies for even the illusion of profitability—are the only sources exempted from the illogical 100-megawatt cap? It is because these technologies have been held up by green activists as the most virtuous power sources, despite being unreliable energy producers.

Instead of being measured by its ability to diminish greenhouse gas emissions—the alleged goal of RPS—the law punishes projects which utilize clean, efficient, high-density power sources like nuclear and hydroelectric plants. This should raise red flags for anyone engaged in a good-faith effort to promote clean energy. Ultimately, the program has not helped Maine people lead better lives.

In 2012, Maine Policy Institute and the Beacon Hill Institute estimated that RPS will raise the cost of electricity by $83 million by 2020 for the state’s residential consumers, increasing electricity prices 1.24 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in the medium-risk scenario. In reality, the average monthly retail electricity price in Maine grew from 11.8 cents/kWh in 2012 to 13.5 cents/kWh in 2020, about 1.7 cents greater than the worst-case scenario in the Beacon Hill Institute report.

Heightened energy prices hurt Maine households and businesses and, in turn, inflict significant harm on the state economy. This is the reason why several states such as West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ohio have recently taken action to repeal or reform their RPS requirements.

The best case scenario for Maine ratepayers would be a quick and unceremonious repeal of RPS, but if it must exist, there is no reason to discriminate between clean-emitting energy sources by capacity size. The 100-megawatt cap is an absurd and nonsensical policy that should be repealed immediately. 

Please deem LD 43 or LD 622 “Ought To Pass” to take politics out of energy markets, increase supply to put downward pressure on electricity prices, and diversify the power grid. Thank you for your time and consideration.