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Maine PUC Applauds - But Doesn't Approve - Efficiency Maine Contract
01/30/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

Energy efficiency advocates - and some of Maine's largest electricity consumers - say the state's public utilities commission should have approved a long-term contract, up for consideration earlier this week. Instead, PUC members sent the deal, proposed by the Efficiency Maine Trust, to the Legislature for approval - despite expressing support for it and acknowledging it would save consumers money.  More now from Jay Field.

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Maine PUC Applauds - But Doesn't Approve - Efficie
Originally Aired: 1/30/2013 5:30 PM

Here's how the deal would work:  Efficiency Maine would pay for equipment upgrades at some of Maine's largest energy customers - places like paper mills, universities and hospitals. Anthony Buxton, a lawyer with the firm Preti Flaherty, is general counsel for the Industrial Energy Consumer Group.

"When there's not enough money in the corporate budget or in the school budget for a given motor to be upgraded, or made more efficient, then this is a way to get that money," he says.

Under the contract, Efficiency Maine would get paid 3 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity saved. Michael Stoddard, Efficiency Maine's executive director, says large customers would be able to save 37-million kilowatt hours a year.

"And our projections are that that will reduce energy consumption worth $30.5 million, and also further reduce the prices everyone pays for electricity by about $3 million.

Sounds like a pretty good deal. Members of the Maine Public Utilities Commission seemed to think so. Thomas Welch is PUC chairman. "The contract, as proposed, appears to be cost effective," he says. "From the commission's perspective, this is a contact which is approvable."

Just not this week, by this commission, PUC members went on to say. Here's the issue:  If it gets the contract, Efficiency Maine would get $6 million up front. Some of this money, though, would need to come through additional assessments on ratepayers.

The PUC says that - the way it reads the rules - only state lawmakers can approve an energy efficiency contract, financed by a short term hike of consumer rates.  So the commission voted to send the deal onto the Legislature, recommending it be approved.

"They could have done it either way, and this is the way they chose to go," says Efficiency Maine's Stoddard.  Stoddard says he's still confident the deal will be approved.  "The only concern we have is just that it delays the process a bit and there's more uncertainty, and we have to wait before taking the next step."

The PUC will now write up an official recommendation, transferring the project to the Legislature and the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. It will likely be several months before lawmakers take up the issue. 


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