Maine Needs More Energy Efficiency Investment, Not Less

As Maine lawmakers consider two major pieces of energy legislation in the coming weeks, energy efficiency investments should be their number one priority. Maine should invest more in energy efficiency, not less. Energy efficiency is Maine’s cost-effective energy resource, and unlike fossil fuels, it’s a resource we can control ourselves.

The governor’s proposal would increase energy bills for Mainers by reducing investments in energy efficiency. Since investments in energy efficiency save money for Maine energy consumers, the reverse is also true: Failing to invest in energy efficiency wastes money for Maine energy consumers.

Maine spends about $7.5 billion per year on energy—much more than we need to. Why? Because 20-40% of the energy we consume is wasted. Investments in energy efficiency reduce the amount of energy we waste and reduce the number of dollars that flow from hardworking Mainers to out-of-state fossil fuel companies. Energy efficiency investments reduce the amount of money we spend on energy and keep more of our dollars circulating in the local economy.

In fact, according to economists Charlie Colgan, Jonathan Rubin, and Sam Merrill, the single most effective action Maine could take to improve its business climate and economic competitiveness is to aggressively invest in energy efficiency.

In a separate op-ed from 2011, Colgan and two coauthors from Maine’s business community explained the unassailable basic economics of investing in energy efficiency:

“It costs just 3.6 cents per kilowatt-hour to save electricity. It costs 8 to 9 cents for electricity supplied by power plants, and to get that power to our homes and businesses it costs a total of about 15 cents.”

Strong support for energy efficiency isn’t coming strictly from a vocal minority either. The Maine State Chamber of Commerce supports increasing investment in energy efficiency because it knows it’s good for business. The 2008 Making Maine Work report suggested that the state should reduce energy costs by supporting, among other things, “the efforts of the Efficiency Maine Trust to increase investments in energy-saving lighting, insulation, and industrial processes.”

Recently, the Maine Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved the latest plan to increase energy efficiency investments in Maine. In other words, Maine’s top energy experts and regulators, charged with acting in the interests of Maine electricity ratepayers, agree that energy efficiency is the lowest cost energy option for Maine.

If acknowledgment that energy efficiency is Maine’s cheapest source of energy from Maine’s top economists, energy regulators and experts, and the Maine Chamber of Commerce weren’t enough to convince legislators, perhaps public opinion research showing that an overwhelming majority of Maine people recognize the wisdom in energy efficiency investments will. According to a poll conducted by Portland-based Critical Insights, 83% of Maine people want more public investments in energy efficiency programs for Maine businesses, homeowners and industry.

Lawmakers should reject Governor LePage’s proposed energy legislation in favor of an alternative that makes the aggressive investments in energy efficiency that Maine energy consumers deserve and that Maine’s economy needs.

New England Electric Efficiency Investments, 2006-2012:

Source: Environment Northeast