Record Hill Wind Project: A Big Loser for Yale

Additional Threats From Connecticut Looming

Record Hill finally filed its 2nd quarter 2016 report with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week.

The project, constructed with a taxpayer subsidy of more than $100 million, and sold to ratepayers by Angus King before he became a US Senator, was underwritten by Yale University, in its "quest to be to be the world's greenest university."

The Connecticut school boasts that it bought Record Hill to "provide a meaningful economic return to the Endowment while helping the University achieve its sustainability goals."

Aren't those Ivy League folks supposed to be smart?

For the quarter, the Byron & Roxbury, Maine project's average energy price was a paltry $21.11 per megawatt/hour. (That's 2.1 cents per kilowatt/hour.)

Its capacity Factor was merely 24.4%. (This effectively means that three days out of four it doesn't work.)

Total Energy and Capacity Revenues (it's a travesty that we waste capacity payments on wind projects) were $740,000 for the quarter.

This is a serious cash shortfall, considering Record Hill's estimated quarterly debt service is $1.8 million.

Could be interesting when Yale’s investment committee reviews the project’s "sustainability" and "meaningful economic return."

Residents around Ellis Pond, Appalachian Trail hikers, as well as motorists on Maine Scenic Byway Route 17 between Rumford and Rangely, are stuck with a massive industrial eyesore that does nothing to save the planet.

Meanwhile, Connecticut continues plotting to ruin many more Maine mountains as the "Clean Energy RFP" progresses. Rest assured that the bidders in the RFP cannot survive if they win government-mandated contracts at 2 or 3 cents per kilowatt/hour. 

Not unlike those well-educated people at Yale, perhaps we have not learned our lessons. Nobody will know what a bad deal the RFP is until AFTER the contracts have been signed: "Final results of the RFP will be announced to the public when executed contracts are filed for regulatory review." 

Last week Friends of Maine's Mountains had a meeting with Governor Paul LePage to warn him about the Clean Energy RFP's potential impact on Maine's economy and environment.  Over 2000 megawatts of Maine-based wind development has been bid in the RFP.  In the meeting we urged Maine's Chief Executive to use his influence in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to discourage overpriced contracts that could be mandated by the public utilities commissions in those RFP states.

FMM will continue to monitor the process, and we will oppose all Maine wind projects that eventually emerge from the RFP. 

 

 

SunEdison Bankruptcy Update

September is a big month for SunEdison, TerraForm Power, and TerraForm Global (SUNE, TERP, GLBL) as the lawyers continue to wrangle over what remains of last year's energy darling.

SUNE has received offers and/or locked up “Stalking Horse” agreements for over 90% of its pipeline and portfolio. Auctions are scheduled for both the Stalking Horse bids and SUNE’s ownership of TERP and GLBL (including Class B shares with 10 to 1 voting rights superiority) before the end of the month. SUNE’s advisors state that the awarding of winning bids will take only 3-4 business days following the auctions. D.E. Shaw, Madison Dearborn, Appaloosa Capital (in partnership with Canadian Brookfield Asset Management) and an unnamed Chinese energy firm are said to have the most interest in acquiring the subs. All sales of no-bid project assets previously approved by the Court are expected to close during September.

To date, the aggregate amount of offers on the table for SUNE’s portfolio is less than $500 million. However, two motions to the Court this week for sales indicate that SUNE gets little or nothing from the sales. A Texas wind project (27 MW) reported on “the books” with an asset value of $31.4 million was offered $13 million in cash but $11 million goes to pay off a Letter of Credit which was drawn on due to failure to meet project construction deadlines and the remaining $2 million goes to the project's vendors. A UK deal on the books with an asset value of $14.3 million was offered $9 million but $6 million goes to pay off non-recourse debt and $3 million goes to pay off project vendors.

The sales of Maine's Oakfield Wind (operating) and Bingham Wind (under construction) to Terra Nova (a JP Morgan fund) apparently did not go off without a hitch. SUNE/First Wind boasted prior to the construction start of both projects that they had lined up debt and equity for the full $787 million costs. Terra Nova reported in December 2015 that they had purchased the equity in both projects for a total of $202 million. However, SUNE is reporting in its June Monthly Operating Report to the Court that it still has a gross investment in Oakfield of $141.3 million ($72.5 million net with $68.8 million written off) and a net investment of $82.5 million in Bingham.

This data indicates that SUNE received far less equity investment than it had projected, and/or the cost of long term debt was far more expensive than their expectations (lowering the principal amount of the non-recourse loan), so SUNE was forced to provide the balance of investment (more project debt) with its own funds. The write-off on Oakfield shows that there was insufficient projected cash flow to cover the needs of the non-recourse debt lender and equity so SUNE was forced to take a below-market interest rate over the term of the PPA below its funding cost.

The subs are struggling and had to renegotiate their indentures last week due to default for no audited financials. They have until early December to comply. TERP ($1.2 billion loan outstanding) had to pay an upfront fee of $6.25 million, and saw its interest rate permanently increased 50 basis points to 6.375%.  They also saw an added on penalty rate of 300 basis points to 9.375% until the financials are filed but, in any case, not for less than a minimum 90 days. TERP is selling its UK portfolio and looking to sell other poor performing projects in its portfolio. This could include Stetson 2 in Maine and Cohocton in New York. Both projects showed energy rates on FERC filings for 2Q2016 of less than $22/MWH.

GLBL ($810 million loan outstanding) saw its interest rate increase from 9.75% by 400 basis points to 13.75% until it complies with providing up to date audited financial statements. 

The current “junk bond” market rate is around 7% - 8%. Given the rates TERP and GLBL are now paying, if their auctions fail to attract new deep pocket owners capable of turning the two companies around, they too may find themselves in bankruptcy or liquidation in the near future.

The Boards of both TERP and GLBL made firm offers last week to hire away two senior SUNE employees each (a CFO and COO) upon their expected departure from SUNE. There will most likely be a mass exodus of experienced employees during Sep/Oct if it hasn’t started already.

NOTES

Since SUNE filed Chapter 11 with the Court on April 21st there have been a total of 1,119 filings to date. Letters from shareholders are entertaining. There are some who insist on telling the Judge that he must appoint an Equity Holders Committee because they fund the renewables companies that will help stop climate change and save the planet.  The Message Boards on E*TRADE show that many SUNE stockholders still think that it is a good time to buy SUNE stock (trading at 5 cents per share) since they believe it will be resurrected by a white knight buyer or new fortunes in sales of unreported assets. The reorganization legal expenses are running about $40 million per month. The chances of this bankruptcy going Ch. 7 are remote. SUNE has managed to attach provisions in its PSAs for projects that would pay them bonuses 1, 2 or 3 years after a project is completed if a project outperforms minimum thresholds. While the amounts are small it is enough that payments would require an ongoing trustee to manage the recoveries. 

Bingham at last report was on schedule to go commercial sometime 4Q2016. 

Wholesale Electricity Prices Fall, But Light Bills Rise

CLICK HERE for the latest chart showing wholesale electricity prices in the ISO-New England.  

THE NUMBERS ARE AMAZING.

Compare the month-over-month prices and you'll see that by year-end 2016 we could save about 4 BILLION DOLLARS on "energy" costs compared to what we spent a few years ago.  

This huge savings is primarily due to low and stable natural gas prices.  Another factor is conservation/efficiency: the chart shows that we are using less power.  Last, we have made some grid management decisions to help reduce the horrific peak pricing on the hottest and coldest days of the year. 

For comparison, 4 BILLION DOLLARS per year is more money than the State of Maine collects via both the sales tax and the income tax!  It's a lot of money, money that consumers should have in our pockets to boost the economy.  

So why is your light bill still high?

Energy policy.  It matters a lot.  

While New England is starting to come to its senses (procuring and enhancing sustainable base load sources like hydro and gas) we are also making some foolish choices (blowing over 2 BILLION DOLLARS on wind projects that don't scratch the grid's surface, closing reliable power plants with no reliable generators available to replace them).

Our light bills include many charges besides the (now low) cost of energy. For instance, many wind projects, through government-mandated long term contracts, force consumers to pay triple and quadruple the market price. Had the Statoil project been built, we would have paid EIGHT TIMES the market rate for the electricity, thanks to the contract forced upon us by our own Public Utilities Commission!

Another downside to wind proliferation is the cost of all those transmission upgrades that we didn't need but for all the wind lobbyists who convinced regulators that the grid was outdated, and that wind energy would be worth the massive expense (they called it "investment"). If useless and unnecessary wind projects are the heist, then excessive transmission upgrades are the getaway car. 

And "capacity payments" to the valuable power plants have quadrupled in just a few short years, because we need those power plants to keep our lights on, but they need to be paid to stay in business. 

So thank you for staying informed and involved as Maine and our neighbors make critical policy decisions about our environment and our economy.  The mountains deserve our protection.  So do our wallets.  We at FMM will continue to educate the public about these important policies.

If you haven't donated to FMM yet this year, please CLICK HERE today! 

 

2 Crucial Public Comment Opportunities

Deadlines Coming Fast

DEP Rulemaking on Wind Energy

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is asking for preliminary comments on a draft Wind Rule that would improve standards for visual impact, decommissioning, and more. Your comments on this draft can help the DEP Staff write a solid Rule.  Deadline Monday, August 8 at 5:00 PM.

In the wake of the SunEdison bankruptcy, earlier this year FMM urged the DEP to provide assurances that the public will be protected if a wind developer fails to meet its obligations. We are pleased with the DEP's reaction, and we urge YOU to take advantage of this important opportunity.  Note:  this is a draft Rule. DEP will take your comments under advisement as they prepare the eventual Rule language.  

To read the draft Rule and to submit your comment, CLICK HERE

To Read the comments that FMM has submitted, CLICK HERE 

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LUPC Hearing on Milton Opt-Out

For the first six months of this year, we invested lots of time and resources helping Mainers take advantage of the opportunity to opt-out of the Expedited Wind Area.  Dedicated volunteers in almost 50 Maine communities submitted Opt-Out petitions to the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC).  

Two of those petitions are being challenged by wind interests, and your support will help.

Milton Township is up first, and the public hearing will be Wednesday in Bethel. A wind developer wants Milton to remain Expedited and the residents want out. LUPC will decide.  Public comment will be accepted at the hearing in two sessions (afternoon & evening). Written comment may be submitted until August 22.

The proceeding boils down to the Commission answering two questions:  

1. Does Milton's removal from the Expedited Area have an unreasonable adverse effect on Maine's ability to achieve its "goals" for installed wind capacity?

2. Is the removal consistent with the principles and goals of LUPC's Comprehensive Land Use Plan?

The obvious and correct answers are NO and YES.  Naturally the Wind Lobby is arguing YES and NO.  

So please submit your comment now.  

The background info is HERE at the LUPC web site.

The public hearing particulars and commenting instructions are HERE

 

PAY UP, SUCKER --- electricity increases next June

Get ready to pay A LOT MORE for your electricity.

Get ready to pay A LOT MORE for your electricity.

If you have deep pockets, you probably applaud the Maine Legislature for artificially propping up the wind industry in this state. If you don’t have deep pockets, be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

Take a look at your most recent electric bill. Next year you’ll pay an increased per-kilowatt rate, according to Tux Turkel, the well-informed utilities writer for the MaineToday newspapers. In fact, Turkel wrote on Saturday, July 30 that you can also expect “your electric bill to go up for the next few years.” (Emphasis added.

As we said a few months ago, the wholesale cost of generating electricity is falling through the floor.  Yet our electric rates continue to climb, because your light bill includes a LOT more than the simple cost of “generating electricity.”  Don’t worry if you’re totally confused by Turkel’s explanation. The convoluted  process for setting electric rates is incomprehensible to the average Maine ratepayer. If you have a headache after reading the article, you’re not alone. However, one thing is clear, according to Turkel. “Clean energy also is benefiting from the spike in capacity payments.”

Capacity Payments to necessary New England power plants in March 2017 will triple from the average $1 billion per year historically over the last decade to $3 billion for 2017. That is a penalty on Maine ratepayers of about $160 million. And it's about the equivalent of raising the Maine sales tax by a penny. Our Capacity Payments will increase even more the following year (2018) to $4 billion. $4 billion amounts to more than one half of the entire New England energy market value! A few years ago, capacity payments were just one tenth of the energy market value. That’s our money, and it’s being extracted from our economy, and it’s going up in smoke as we continue to build redundant, unnecessary, and useless electricity generation.

But we pay for more than just generation.  For reasons that we have explained repeatedly, building wind turbines in our state’s most scenic areas does absolutely nothing to reduce Maine’s use of fossil fuels. However, building the transmission lines that enable wind speculators to erect turbines on Maine mountains, and thus to generate electricity that actually goes to consumers in Connecticut and Massachusetts, gives license to developers to cash in on lavish ratepayer and taxpayer subsidies. (That’s your pocketbook.) The Maine Legislature has specifically encouraged this scheme. And now, it’s all about to have another very real and very direct impact on the size of your light bill. As we have predicted for a very long time, Maine people are REALLY going to pay --- through the nose --- for the privilege of providing the states to our south with insignificant amounts of “clean” energy. Those folks will feel good about themselves, falsely believing they’re saving the planet, while Maine people will pay the very steep price --- literally.

Get ready for next June, and start saving your pennies. Your discretionary income is going down, thanks to bad policies.

SunEdison crashes and burns, declares bankruptcy

Financial implosion likely to hasten exit of wind capital from Maine

Statement by Chris O’Neil, director of public policy, Friends of Maine’s Mountains, April 21, 2016

“Sun Edison’s operating wind projects own very lucrative long-term contracts that are sometimes triple and quadruple wholesale market rates. While we will enjoy relief from SunEdison’s ruthless march on Maine, plenty of scavengers are just waiting to swoop in and pick at the carcass. We’ll be watching. (statement continued, BELOW.)

Sun-Edison filed for bankruptcy protection it was announced today, April 21, 2016

Sun-Edison filed for bankruptcy protection it was announced today, April 21, 2016

“Nevertheless, this financial collapse occurs just as the Tri-State RFP is about to make important decisions on bids from Maine projects. But today’s news shows that at least in Maine, new wind projects can't compete given the current energy market conditions. Their business models are simply unsustainable, and that’s why they’re imploding.”

“As we noted yesterday in a press release about the opt-out petition process, those who are determined to protect Mine’s invaluable wilderness assets are fighting back, and we’re winning key battles. Jeremy Payne has noted that wind capital is now moving out of Maine. He’s right, and now he can expect to see that process to accelerate.”

###

EXCERPT, Friends of Maine’s press release, February 25, 2016:

Uncertainty injected into southern New England Clean Energy RFP decisions

Major disadvantage for ME companies in regional RFP process

Growing opposition in Maine, and its confirmed effectiveness at deterring wind development, could have a major impact on a consortium of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Last fall, the consortium issued a Request for Proposals to deliver at least 5,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy to those states, with proposals due in late January of 2016. The initial results of the RFP made headlines all over New England, when the consortium announced that it had received 51 separate proposals from developers.

On January 29, utilities Emera Maine and Central Maine Power announced that they had submitted a joint transmission proposal in response to the RFP. O’Neil said that particular news defined the next new battleground for wind turbine opponents in Maine. He described wind development in Maine as “the heist,” and costly new transmission systems as “the getaway car.”

“Our strategy is no secret. We want states to our south to know that the regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wilderness areas are enormous, and hopefully insurmountable. They will encounter an especially burdensome process here. In fact, it’s probably in their best interest that they rule out Maine wind right now, and instead pursue viable solutions to the challenges facing the grid and the environment.”

###

Press Release, Friends of Maine's Mountains, April 20, 2016

Wind opponents: market uncertainty "exactly what we're trying to achieve"

(Weld, Maine) One of Maine’s largest private land owners has cited the “uncertainty” of wind power development in Maine as one of the primary reasons it has withdrawn its request to challenge Molunkus Township’s petition to remove itself from the state’s “expedited permitting area.”

Attorney Dean Beaupain, representing Lakeville Shores, Inc., notified the Maine Land Use Planning Commission of the change of heart in a letter dated April 19th. Lakeville Shores is owned by H.C. Haynes, Inc.

The defeat comes just weeks after the head of the Maine Renewable Energy Association said that wind opposition in Maine “has caused some companies to push pause on their development plans and…has caused some companies to re-deploy their capital outside of Maine.”

“Look what twenty-five ordinary Maine citizens were able to accomplish by standing up for their rights,” said Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains. “Big Wind lobbyists were able to snuff out the rights of Maine citizens in 2008, but the pendulum is now swinging back the other way. The folks in Molunkus have added more uncertainty to the financial prospects of big wind companies in Maine, exactly what we are trying to achieve.”

Twenty-five residents of Molunkus Township were the first to submit an “opt-out” petition to the State of Maine. Land owners like Haynes have the right to contest the petitions, but now that the company has dropped opposition, any future wind development in Molunkus must include citizen input.

For several months, wind opponents have been fanning out across the state, explaining to residents how to gather petition signatures and "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA). The opportunity ends June 30.

Wind projects proposed in these EA are currently not required to win local zoning approval. The Unorganized Territory (where most wind development is targeted) comprises the majority of the state’s land mass, but is home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers, who at the time believed wind energy to be useful and necessary, wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the “expedited area” in the Unorganized Territory lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

Since January 1st, dozens of opt-out petitions have been turned in to state officials.

O’Neil said the exodus of wind spending that Payne bemoaned is a major victory for groups like FMM, who argue that erecting wind turbines is a waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money that will hurt Maine’s economy by raising electricity costs while impeding tourism, Maine's biggest industry. The state is a well-known vacation destination for skiers, boaters, hunters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts and people seeking solitude, away from more urban and industrialized areas.

“Our strategy is no secret, as demonstrated by the people of Molunkus. We want the shareholders of the huge wind corporations to know about the enormously expensive regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wild areas. I hope all the wind company CEOs read that letter from Mr. Baupain and get the message.”

To read the uplifting concession letter from Attorney Beaupain, CLICK HERE.

###

Large landowner gives up on challenging “opt-out” petition

Wind opponents: market uncertainty "exactly what we're trying to achieve"

(Weld, Maine) One of Maine’s largest private land owners has cited the “uncertainty” of wind power development in Maine as one of the primary reasons it has withdrawn its request to challenge Molunkus Township’s petition to remove itself from the state’s “expedited permitting area.”

Attorney Dean Beaupain, representing Lakeville Shores, Inc., notified the Maine Land Use Planning Commission of the change of heart in a letter dated April 19th. Lakeville Shores is owned by H.C. Haynes, Inc.

The defeat comes just weeks after the head of the Maine Renewable Energy Association said that wind opposition in Maine “has caused some companies to push pause on their development plans and…has caused some companies to re-deploy their capital outside of Maine.”

“Look what twenty-five ordinary Maine citizens were able to accomplish by standing up for their rights,” said Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains. “Big Wind lobbyists were able to snuff out the rights of Maine citizens in 2008, but the pendulum is now swinging back the other way. The folks in Molunkus have added more uncertainty to the financial prospects of big wind companies in Maine, exactly what we are trying to achieve.”

Twenty-five residents of Molunkus Township were the first to submit an “opt-out” petition to the State of Maine. Land owners like Haynes have the right to contest the petitions, but now that the company has dropped opposition, any future wind development in Molunkus must include citizen input.

For several months, wind opponents have been fanning out across the state, explaining to residents how to gather petition signatures and "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA). The opportunity ends June 30.

Wind projects proposed in these EA are currently not required to win local zoning approval. The Unorganized Territory (where most wind development is targeted) comprises the majority of the state’s land mass, but is home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers, who at the time believed wind energy to be useful and necessary, wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the “expedited area” in the Unorganized Territory lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

Since January 1st, dozens of opt-out petitions have been turned in to state officials.

O’Neil said the exodus of wind spending that Payne bemoaned is a major victory for groups like FMM, who argue that erecting wind turbines is a waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money that will hurt Maine’s economy by raising electricity costs while impeding tourism, Maine's biggest industry. The state is a well-known vacation destination for skiers, boaters, hunters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts and people seeking solitude, away from more urban and industrialized areas.

“Our strategy is no secret, as demonstrated by the people of Molunkus. We want the shareholders of the huge wind corporations to know about the enormously expensive regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wild areas. I hope all the wind company CEOs read that letter from Mr. Baupain and get the message.”

To read the uplifting concession letter from Attorney Beaupain, CLICK HERE.

###

What Not to Do When You Win Powerball

If every man, woman and child in New England split a $1.2 billion Powerball jackpot, we'd each get $77.  

If every worker in New England got a $1.50 per hour pay raise, the total earnings increase in one month would be equal to that Powerball jackpot: $1.2 billion.  

If the customary wild spikes in electricity costs came under control for just the month of February, New England ratepayers would pocket...you guessed it, Powerball: $1.2 billion.  

Well last month in New England, that's exactly what happened. Ratepayers saved $1.2 billion over what we spent in February 2015. 

See the chart here.

Let's write that out, with all the zeroes.  $1,200,000,000.

Right in our pockets, to spend on cars, food, clothes, tuition... Pretty good for the economy, in all likelihood.

How did this happen, and why is it not front page news?  

It happened for a number of reasons. Here are a few:  Natural gas from the nearby Marcellus region has become so plentiful, it has transformed our energy scene.  Fossil fuel prices are extraordinarily low.  The winter was mild. The New England grid did a good job planning for the customary winter peak crisis. 

The lead story in today's Portland Press Herald was about how Maine's lobster industry might lose $10.6 million per year because of a possible international trade flap.  Nobody wants to see the lobster fishery take a hit, and $10.6 million is real money. It's less than 1% of how much we just pocketed in February because of low electricity costs, yet it isn't news!  

In today's same newspaper, the banner headline was about Maine's forest products industry dilemma, and how biomass electricity generators in are in danger of failing because they cannot compete. This -- along with the cascading bad news about mill closures and other forest industry hardships -- is truly sad news.  

Legislators today are considering whether to subsidize our biomass plants, which in recent years have provided about 25% of Maine electricity generation. The "subsidy" could come in the form of government-mandated power purchasing contracts at above market prices.  A tough call, with all those jobs on the line, and with New England preparing in the next few years to close a quarter of our dispatchable base load and peak load generators.  

Yet in Hartford and Providence and Boston it's still considered cool to claim your utility is "buying" Maine wind energy.  

Even as our reliable biomass generators spiral toward their demise, Maine and the New England states continue to grant above-market government-mandated contracts to non-dispatchable generators (wind) that provide barely any jobs, and that cannot replace or even displace a dirty old fossil fuel plant, even as wind sprawls its massive and expensive infrastructure across Maine's magnificent landscape. We are blowing billions building unnecessary but otherwise fashionable energy infrastructure that does us no good, yet we wring our hands as our existing biomass plants are allowed to wither and die.   

Friends of Maine's Mountains has consistently argued against government-mandated contracts, especially when they are at above-market prices (remember Statoil?).  And most especially when they are for low quality, unnecessary, high-impact generation like wind.  Adding insult to injury, the monetary subsidies are increasingly favoring wind over the higher quality renewables. 

Our energy priorities sometimes amount to fashion statements rather than sound policies.  Today's legislation in Augusta is a band aid approach to a problem of our own making.  The Press Herald article mentions the extraordinarily high costs that policymakers and regulators saddled onto ratepayers a couple decades ago.  In the last decade we've continued to meddle with the same risky favoritism, but we've abandoned biomass in favor of wind, which we are apparently already beginning to regret.  

We do not envy legislators in Augusta who this afternoon are grappling with this dilemma, a dilemma that they helped create, and one that we've seen before.  

Just as quickly as we gained $1.2 billion, we could blow it.  Listen to the Utilities Committee this afternoon:  CLICK HERE.

Big Victory For Maine's Environment and Economy

Planned wind projects in Maine could be cancelled

For Immediate Release

Weld, Maine

An ambitious bill written by the utility and wind power lobby was unanimously killed yesterday in Augusta by a legislative committee. 

LD 1513 would have undone an established law that protects ratepayers from large companies seeking to control the market for electricity generation and transmission. Transmission utilities like Central Maine Power Company and Emera Maine were prohibited from owning generation plants when the Restructuring Act was passed 16 years ago.  

In the last three years utilities and wind generators have brought controversial cases to the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, because the companies sought to do enter "affiliated interest" relationships, in which companies held by joint ownership sought to partner on generation projects requiring expensive transmission expenditures for delivery of the power.  Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) has opposed all of these attempts because power producing companies have an incentive to build generators in remote areas far from population centers, while utilities that are essentially sister companies have an incentive to build transmission lines hundreds of miles long.  FMM convinced the legislature that this market control is bad for ratepayers, and especially bad for mountains that have been targeted by wind development. 

LD 1513 was written by Central Maine Power, it's parent company Iberdrola, an affiliated company called Iberdrola Renewables, America's second largest wind developer.  Emera Maine assisted.  A consortium of LD 1513 opponents led by FMM included Anthony Buxton of the Independent Energy Consumer Group and Ben Smith of Houlton Water Company.  Opponents provided forceful and compelling testimony both at a February public hearing and a March 8 work session.  See FMM's testimony here.  

Chris O'Neil, FMM's Director of Government Affairs said: "After several language revisions and attempted amendments, the Committee finally said, 'No way.  We don't need or want the sort of market dominance that LD 1513 enables.'  We are pleased that Maine's ratepayers and environment won a big one yesterday."

FMM has welcomed recent reports that wind developers are losing interest in Maine.  O'Neil added that this defeat should send a message to policymakers in southern New England.  "We were astonished a few weeks ago to learn that 51 renewable energy projects are being considered in an RFP process, and that many of those projects would have catastrophic consequences for Maine, all to provide insignificant amounts of expensive electricity to meet arbitrary requirements" in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.  "Now, with defeat of LD 1513" O'Neil said, "some of those projects are less likely to be completed or even proposed, and we in Maine couldn't be happier if killing this bill also kills those horrible projects under consideration in the RFP." 

####

Contact Chris O'Neil   (207) 590-3842           mainemountainfriends@gmail.com

When your roof is caving in, don't spend your paycheck on lawn ornaments!

The New England Grid is changing rapidly.  Large workhorse generation stations are retiring in big numbers. That can be good, as lots of those are dirty old coal and oil plants in Southern New England.  

But it's also bad, because when we have to build new generation facilities, our light bills will increase.  

While Maine has the third cleanest electricity generation fleet in the nation, and while New England as a region is also very clean,  in the last few years we have made a push for lots more wind generation.  

This is a problem.  Why?  

Well for starters it ruins some of Maine's most special places.  And wind turbines are hundreds of miles from electricity customers, so all those new transmission lines will really whack our light bills.  And of course, closing base-load nuke and coal plants reduces our ability to reliably keep the lights on.  A thousand new wind turbines in Maine cannot perform the crucial work performed by one nuke plant like the soon-closing 680 megawatt Pilgrim Nuclear Plant in Massachusetts.  Even after we spend billions on new wind turbines, we will still need to invest in new base-load and peak-load generating plants to run the grid.  This would be very costly. 

Continuing to dump billions of dollars into remote wind and its corresponding transmission lines is like a homeowner blowing her paycheck on patio furniture while there is a growing hole in her roof.  If we want more renewables, lets stick to renewable generation that is dispatchable and scalable… you know... the useful stuff:  hydro, biomass, rooftop solar, tidal, etc.

This infographic from the New England Grid operator clearly illustrates the pickle we are in if we keep wasting our money on "patio furniture"

 http://www.iso-ne.com/static-assets/documents/2016/02/NE_Power_Grid_2015-2016_Regional_Profile.pdf