The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took important steps this week to increase energy efficiency in the state and pass those savings along to Maine’s electric customers. On Tuesday, the PUC issued its final order unanimously approving the Efficiency Maine Trust’s Triennial Plan, the comprehensive document that outlines the strategies, programs, budgets and estimated savings for three years starting July 1, 2013.
Some of the more critical components of the approved Plan are its budgets for the Trust’s largest programs related to electric efficiency. The Trust had proposed and made the case for expanding its budget for these programs by almost three times what would otherwise have been available to the Trust, estimating over $650 million in achievable cost-effective savings. The PUC took a more conservative approach, but acted meaningfully, doubling the electricity budget and affording ratepayers close to $500 million in savings from these programs.
With their decision, Maine’s energy experts have spoken and they unanimously agree that the Legislature should significantly increase funding for energy efficiency. We hope the Legislature will take the responsible course of action this time and claim a victory for Maine ratepayers and the environment.
But, as I wrote last week, going forward, these efficiency funding decisions should reside with the experts at the PUC. The Maine law implemented last year shifting final say on certain energy efficiency funding from the PUC to the Legislature must be amended to direct that authority back to the PUC where it belongs. The Legislature will have the chance to make that change this session. The Legislature should look to the PUC’s actions this week as a demonstration of its keen understanding of the facts and the value of energy efficiency to the people and the state of Maine, and should follow the lead of our energy regulators.
The press release announcing the PUC’s decision is here.