Weekly Message

Governor Paul R. LePage

July 20, 2013

Official Photograph of Governor LePage

Radio Address: Mainers Should Not be Forced to Pay More on Their Electricity Bill

July 20, 2013

My fellow Mainers, I have two simple questions for you.

Would you like to pay more or less for electricity? Would you like to pay more or less to heat your homes?

Hello, this is Governor Paul LePage.

The Legislature and the media celebrated the passage of the omnibus energy bill, and there are some good aspects to it. I am pleased that some of the state’s efforts will now focus on helping Mainers reduce their biggest and most important cost: heating their homes.

It’s about time, since our heating bills are some of the highest in the country.

But the new law fails to address the cost of electricity and expands natural gas at the expense of Mainers. Ultimately, your electricity bill will go up because of this new law.

That will make it harder for Mainers who are already struggling to pay the bills, and will make it more difficult to attract companies and jobs to Maine.

Energy policy can be very complicated. But it all boils down to how much you pay to heat your home and keep the lights on. Whether you own a home or a business, you are paying some of the highest rates in the country for electricity and the highest cost for basic heat.

For hard-working Maine families, this adds to their financial burden every month. For business owners, it could determine whether they decide to leave Maine.

Manufacturing drove our economy for over a century. But the high cost of doing business in Maine has driven too many companies out of the state.

The problem is quite simple.

Manufacturing requires very large and very expensive machinery. That machinery runs on electricity—a lot of electricity. When a company in Maine plugs a machine into the wall, it pays much more for electricity than it would in other parts of the country.

That makes Maine less competitive and less attractive. When companies leave Maine and go where costs are lower, they take jobs with them. Those good-paying jobs go to workers in other states.

The resources to reduce our electricity costs are easily available, and they are close by. But legislators have developed policies that signal we are not interested. We are handcuffed by Maine laws that favor wind projects. This makes no sense. Wind power is very expensive, and it doesn’t generate enough capacity to reduce rates.

Maine law prevents us from using more hydropower, which is plentiful, renewable and clean.

We should be adding hydropower to the renewable power mix, because it is substantially less expensive than wind and solar power and emits no greenhouse gases.

Using this affordable power from sources such as Hydro Quebec would drive down our electricity rates.

For example, the average household in Montreal pays about $34 per month on electricity compared to Mainers paying $84 per month.

Hydropower would lower your electricity rates, but it is considered a loser under Maine’s renewable energy laws. Wind projects raise your electricity prices, but they are considered winners. That is just wrong.

Other states recognize the benefits of hydropower. While Maine legislators were passing an energy bill that raises fees, Connecticut and Massachusetts were working to expand large-scale hydroelectric power.

So the next time you plug an air conditioner or a microwave into the wall, ask yourself a question: Are wind projects reducing my electricity bill?

I support all energy technologies that are economically viable and sustainable. Today, we have options that are encouraging people to reduce fuel oil consumption and protect our environment.

We are expanding economical alternatives like natural gas, biomass and wood pellets and geothermal. Solar hot water heaters and heat pumps are also working to lower energy cost.

Unfortunately, the Legislature is expanding natural gas at the expense of Mainers. While I support the expansion of natural gas into Maine I do not support a surcharge on your electricity bill to pay for it.

Some natural gas companies say the bill could increase annual fees from $32 a year to $126. Instead of making natural gas more affordable, this bill will most likely increase costs for hard-working Mainers.

Politicians and the media say compromise is good. By compromising on the energy bill, the Legislature just raised your rates.

How good is that compromise?

Thank you for listening.