It was a dark day for the people and businesses of Maine when Gov. Paul LePage’s two appointees to the Maine Public Utilities Commission decided recently to thwart the intent of the Legislature that passed the 2013 bipartisan energy bill.

By its action, the PUC cut $38 million from the budget of Efficiency Maine, the organization that has done more for the Maine economy by eliminating energy waste than any other organization in recent times. If they had only realized the crucial distinction between the price of energy and the cost of energy, the commissioners presumably would not have made such a tragic mistake.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of touring the National Semiconductor (now Texas Instruments) plant in South Portland. As a manufacturer of chips for various mobile devices their production processes require very extensive (and expensive) air handling equipment to provide just the right manufacturing environment.

On our tour, we learned that this plant had received a grant from Efficiency Maine, which, when combined with their own investment, allowed it to acquire a new air handling system that reduced electricity use by some 40 percent.

When the parent company had to close one of its plants due to an economic downturn, they closed an out-of-state plant despite its lower electricity price. The Maine plant was able to stay open even with its higher electricity price, because it used less energy; it had the lowest electricity cost (the price times the amount consumed).

Last year Efficiency Maine programs reduced inefficient electricity use for an average of under 3 cents per kilowatt-hour, while producing that kilowatt-hour averaged around 7 cents. Due to the PUC decision Maine’s homeowners and businesses will now pay a lot more than necessary for wasted electrical energy.

Tom Tietenberg


Editor’s note: The author formerly served as a member of the board of Efficiency Maine.

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