The Energy Policy Interview with our Three Candidates for Governor

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photo of Eliot Cutler by Kay Mann     photo of Paul LePage by Kay Mann     photo of Mike Michaud by Kay Mann

We thought our readers would want to know what the three candidates for governor propose for their energy policy, so we sent a list of four interview questions to all three. Their unedited answers follow each question, in alphabetical order (Cutler, LePage, Michaud). [The first one of our questions was slightly different for the incumbent Governor, Paul LePage, than for his two challengers, because he has already been in office.]

Please read them all and make your best decision on November 4.

Paul LePage 1. (To Governor LePage): In your next term as Governor, will there be any changes to the energy policies you have pursued to date, or any new policy initiatives you wish to implement?

We need to accelerate the progress we are making on lowering home heating costs. Right now, each Mainer spends well over $3,000 to heat his house – today’s options between wood pellets, heat pumps, propane, and natural gas can reduce that down to $2,000. We’ve moved nearly 10,000 households to that level with the success of my Administration’s program. With expansion of the advanced technology we have available, we can cut the heating average across the entire state down to $2,000 on average. This would save the Maine economy $00 million annually.

Specifically, while we have brought gas service to Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland, Augusta, and Gardiner -- and up and down the Kennebec Valley - we need to do more. We need to accelerate this momentum and my Administration will prioritize bringing natural gas to Farmington, Belfast, Ellsworth, Rockland, and the County. Roughly 5 percent of Maine homes have access to natural gas – my Administration will work to make that 20 percent over the next four years.

It is time that we target those truly in need and assist them with the purchase of the highly efficient heat pump that will cut costs, keep our most vulnerable comfortable, and save the taxpayer.

Finally, although my opponents will outline their ideas – ask them how they will pay for it. I have not only successfully prioritized state resources towards heating costs, I have also called for using the revenue from the harvest of Maine’s forests to help our most vulnerable. We can do this today if people in Augusta wake up and understand how tremendous the struggle is to simply stay warm in Maine, and work with me to expand use of the affordable options available today.

1. (To Cutler and Michaud): What major energy policies will your administration prioritize if elected governor?

Eliot Cutler CUTLER:

If I am elected governor, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions – both in Maine and in neighboring states whose policies we can influence and whose goals we can help make possible – will be a top priority.

In order to mitigate and limit the effects of climate change, my administration will (1) work with our neighbors to develop a carbon content standard for transportation fuels with neighboring states and provinces; (2) promote cost-effective transportation alternatives that will decrease our dependence on oil; and (3) redouble Maine’s efforts at improving energy efficiency and energy conservation, starting with a comprehensive review of existing programs -including the renewable energy portfolio standard and the long term contracting authority - and study the potential for new incentives.

I will also prioritize the promotion of distributed energy generation and the diversification of Maine’s renewable energy portfolio. Natural gas is a cleaner alternative than oil or coal for electricity generation and is a necessary bridge fuel, but we realize we ought to keep our growing dependence on natural gas in check. My administration will work to protect and develop export markets for Maine’s renewable energy production and assist in the development of solar, land-based and offshore wind and tidal generation of electricity in ways that are cost-effective from a life-cycle perspective and are consistent with the protection of Maine’s vital interests.

Mike Michaud MICHAUD:

In my Maine Made plan, I outline an aggressive energy policy that is focused on reducing our state’s dependency on heating oil, investing in energy efficiency and promoting our homegrown renewable energy sector.

Specifically, I want to cut the use of home heating oil by 50 percent by 2030. It’s aggressive, but I think we can get there through a combination of alternative energy sources, energy efficiency and conservation.

I will create an Ocean Energy Center of Excellence to reposition Maine as a leader in the field. Maine missed a major opportunity when Gov. LePage chased a major offshore wind energy company out of the state – and the country. That’s wrong. I believe Maine has tremendous potential for tidal and offshore wind energy power and we should work to become a leader in the sector.

Maine is the only state in New England that doesn’t have a solar energy policy and that has to change. Despite our long winters, Maine has tremendous untapped potential when it comes to solar power. In fact, we get 30% more sun than Germany, the world’s leader in solar power. The price of solar power is dropping and we need to make it more accessible for more people.

I am also proposing a partnership with municipalities to reward pro-active energy policies called the Municipal Energy Leadership Initiative. Essentially, the program will reward towns and cities that work to increase energy efficiency.

2. How will your administration address rising energy costs in Maine?

Eliot Cutler CUTLER:

The reduction of energy costs is critical for Maine’s future. Towards this goal, the Cutler administration will:

(1) Re-double Maine’s efforts at conservation and energy efficiency, starting with a comprehensive review of existing programs and incentives, including smart grid technologies, new rate structure designs and diversified energy sources for Maine homes and businesses.

(2) Consider new incentives that can spur development of energy storage technologies and distributed energy generation from onshore and offshore wind, biomass, biofuels, geothermal, tidal and solar resources.

(3) Support regional efforts for investment in increased pipeline capacity to deliver natural gas to Maine and the rest of New England.

(4) Jumpstart the introduction of natural gas into more Maine communities as a lower cost bridge fuel between higher carbon fossil fuels and cleaner renewable energy sources, helping more Maine communities attract and maintain employers.

(5) Make sound public investments in the energy sector in order to both restore economic activity across Maine and spur wider distributed generation of renewable energy. The Cutler Administration will establish the Maine Energy Finance Authority (MEFA) within the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) to provide low-cost capital for 21st-century energy projects that promise to make energy more affordable for citizens and businesses.

Paul LePage LE PAGE:

Electricity cost increases are killing our businesses bottom-line and makes it difficult to hire additional workers or invest in modern technology. Under my leadership, Maine has led an effort for a new vision for New England to bring more competition to our region and invest in infrastructure to bring hydropower and natural gas to increase competition and lower costs.

Everyone agreed – until the liberal groups in Massachusetts prevailed with the Governor and he backed out to “study” it more. My Administration will propose this plan again to the new Governor of Massachusetts the day after the election. We will not stand for continuing a catastrophic energy policy in New England – time for some common sense and time to move forward with the Maine plan.

Mike Michaud MICHAUD:

There is no magic bullet to reducing energy cost. It’s a complex issue that is going to take a comprehensive approach. That being said, there should be little disagreement that the No. 1 thing we can do to cut energy costs at home and businesses is to invest in weatherization and energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency returns three, four or more dollars for every dollar invested.

That’s why I am committed to working with the Legislature, consumers and the private sector to ensure that all Mainer’s have access to the most energy efficient heating equipment available, whether for oil, gas, wood or other fuels.

3. What are your views on increased renewable energy development in Maine? How will your administration provide support for the development of new energy projects in Maine, particularly development in sources such as biomass, solar, geothermal, hydro, and tidal power?

Eliot Cutler CUTLER:

My administration will prioritize the diversification of Maine’s renewable energy portfolio. To control energy costs and emissions, and to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we need to develop Maine’s clean, renewable energy sources in ways that are cost-effective and consistent with the protection of Maine’s vital assets.

To control energy costs and - just as importantly - to reduce Maine’s dependence on foreign fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, Maine must carefully evaluate and tap into every clean, cost-effective, renewable energy resource available to us, including land-based wind, existing domestic resources such as hydro and biomass and emerging technologies such as solar, tidal, geothermal, off-shore wind and biofuels.

To develop these resources in concert with the conservation of Maine’s quality of place, my administration will do the following:

(1) Maximize the benefits of local and renewable resources by encouraging the development of distributed generation, deploying smart grid technologies that can dramatically improve grid capacity to accommodate renewable generation resources and investing where necessary in additional transmission infrastructure.

(2) Undertake a comprehensive review of Maine’s existing incentives for renewable energy development to ensure that Maine gets benefits from those programs commensurate with the costs.

(3) Consider the potential for new policies such as a carefully tailored feed-in-tariff or improvements to the renewable portfolio standard to increase the percentage of Maine’s energy obtained from renewable resources without unsupportable price increases for Maine families and businesses.

My administration will work to protect and develop export markets for Maine’s renewable energy production and assist in the development of solar, land-based and offshore wind and tidal generation of electricity in ways that are cost effective from a life-cycle perspective and are consistent with the protection of Maine’s vital interests.

Finally, Maine should also make sound public investments in the development of renewable, distributed power generation. The Cutler Administration will establish the Maine Energy Finance Authority (MEFA) within the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) – not in a separate new bureaucracy – to provide low-cost capital for energy projects that promise to make energy more affordable for citizens and businesses.

Through low-interest, tax-exempt financing and public-private partnerships, MEFA will encourage investment in renewable energy resources and help construct much needed energy infrastructure. In circumstances where high-energy prices might discourage a company from locating in Maine or increasing existing activity and employment, MEFA financing or contracting may be able to facilitate investments in cost-effective distributed generation or cogeneration options.

Paul LePage LEPAGE:

I am in support of any energy source that is cost-effective for our ratepayers.

 

Mike Michaud MICHAUD:

I support the growth of Maine’s renewable energy sector. A recent report from the Maine Technology Institute identified the sector’s potential to create news jobs and grow quickly.

But we have to have policies and practices that support the industry. For the last four years, Gov. LePage has used the Governor’s Office to drive off investment in offshore wind power, blocked efforts to expand solar power, supported changes in the RPS that would threaten biomass and hydro in Maine and used the Department of Environmental Protection to block new wind power projects that met the standards in the law.

First and foremost, a Michaud administration will ensure that Maine’s laws and rules are applied fairly and predictably. That hasn’t been the case under Gov. LePage.

We will also encourage long-term contracts for clean, renewable power, which can help to hold down the costs of electricity, hedge against price spikes and provide stability to new projects.

4. Do you favor the establishment of a feed-in tariff to encourage greater production of renewable electricity from smaller, distributed power generators?

Eliot Cutler CUTLER:

We have an enormous basket of resource opportunities available in Maine. To encourage the development of distributed generation of electricity from renewable resources, we need to start with a comprehensive review of existing and new incentives including broader net metering, a more comprehensive feed-in-tariff, a more carefully tailored enhanced renewable portfolio standard and other measures.

Our goal will be to increase the percentage of Maine’s energy obtained from renewable resources without imposing unsupportable price increases on Maine families and businesses.

Paul LePage LE PAGE:

My Administration supported a review at the Public Utilities Commission to determine the value of distributed generation and will support policies that are cost-effective for the ratepayers. Clearly, it is important to determine the proper level of support of any energy source and review the costs and benefits. The study is scheduled to be completed before the next Legislature convenes.

Mike Michaud MICHAUD:

Yes.

 

All candidate photos by Kay Mann.

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