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Maine energy bills would focus on equity, affordability

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(The Center Square) – Assistance for rising electricity rates is sought through two bills signed into law on Monday in Maine.

Legislative Documents 327 and 187 were signed into law by Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, focusing on equity and funding a program to help low-income residents address rising electricity rates and establish a board to monitor the distribution of generated resources.

Jacob Posik, director of communications for Maine Policy Institute, said the bills don’t do enough to address rising electricity rates.

“These bills simply nibble on the edges and do little to reduce rising electricity rates for Mainers,” Posik said in an exclusive interview with The Center Square. “If lawmakers were serious about improving access and affordability, we would abandon the regional greenhouse gas initiative, the renewable portfolio standard, end the carve-outs and hand-outs for wind and solar, eliminate the 100-MW cap, and make clear that Maine welcomes all forms of energy production.”

Under LD327, within the Public Utilities Commission, an administrative director, a director of telephone and water utility industries; a director of electric and gas utility industries; a director of consumer assistance and safety; and a director of emergency services communications will be appointed, along with an ombudsman, who will all monitor aspects of energy in Maine.

Under the new law, monitoring of solar energy development, trends in solar energy markets, costs and benefits, and revenue from sales of renewable energy credits will be performed. In addition, the societal benefits through avoided greenhouse gas emissions, reduced electricity prices, and avoided or reduced costs associated with electricity capacity requirements will all be under review.

According to the bill, the Public Utilities Commission will receive an appropriation of $110,210 for consulting services, and the ombudsman fund will create one utility analyst position with appropriations of $133,805 in the fiscal year 2023-24 and $137,594 in the fiscal year 2024-25.

Under LD187, the Public Utilities Commission will garner alternative compliance payments from competitive electricity providers, and those funds will be deposited into the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resources Fund. Those dollars would fund research, development, and demonstration projects for renewable energy technologies.

According to the bill, the fund would also give low-income households financial assistance for utility bills.

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