Commentary

Energy Costs and Fairy Dust

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I requested (actually, I begged) to serve on Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, because I know that every single household and business is effected by high energy costs in Maine and I wanted to have the opportunity, at minimum, to contain costs. But more so, I wanted to promote effective policy that would lower our overall electric burden.

Much to my dismay, I am pretty sure that your electric rates are not going to decrease any time in the near future and I am certain that some people will benefit at the expense of others for a long time.

Over the years, programs have been put in place that give subsidy’s (your money) to special interest proposals that give increased standard rates for electricity. Electric companies do not absorb these costs; you, the ratepayer, absorb these costs. Electric companies have a guaranteed profit margin on all investments and costs for doing business, so it is you, the consumers, who will always pay for someone’s bright idea to make money.

These are votes that generally don’t make any headlines, so most people even don’t know they are happening. Thirteen Legislators from both parties sit through a committee process and listen to testimony. That testimony is generally provided by lawyers who represent the vested interest of their clients. The clients are the ones who profit from proposed legislation that the highly-paid lawyers lobby the legislature for.

One thing I know for sure is some of the suits working our committee are darn good at convincing legislators that their proposal du jour is unicorns and rainbows. Their fairy dust is strong.

fairy dust

An example of rate-raising legislation that passed this year was LD 1310, “An Act To Amend the Community-based Renewable Energy Program.” This bill was heavily amended, and the final result was a combination of two bills that were put together in an effort to finance two specific projects.

This bill gives qualified applicants the benefit of a guaranteed 20-year contract through the Maine Public Utilities Commission at double the standard electric rate. The average annual increase to ratepayers is about 15 million dollars. Although Governor LePage vetoed this bill because of the fore mentioned reason, the veto was overridden in the House and Senate, even though it was clear that this bill raised rates across the board. I was fit to be tied.

Now I can tell you, the day this veto was overridden, there were countless suits wandering the halls of that big beautiful State House, and they were sprinkling fairy dust everywhere.

So far there hasn’t been enough fair dust to make socializing the cost of these special interest investments on the backs of ratepayers look like unicorns and rainbows to me. Thankfully, I am immune to that stuff.

About Beth O'Connor

Representative O'Connor represents House District 5 including the towns of Berwick and North Berwick (part). She can be reached at (207) 289-9047.

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