The Resilience Hub & Portland Maine Permaculture Message Board › Lots of energy efficiency cash – so who gets it?
Millions per year will be given out by trustees, who will gather advice at a public hearing today.
By JOHN RICHARDSON, Staff Writer
December 3, 2008
The nation's first cap-and-trade program to fight global warming is expected to generate $15 million to $20 million a year for new efforts in Maine to promote energy efficiency.
Now the trustees of that money, along with the state Legislature, must decide how to distribute the funds. And conservationists and energy users will weigh in with their own advice at a public hearing in Augusta today.
"It's a significant pot of money (and) a variety of interests have opinions about how to spend that money," said Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Maine is one of 10 northeastern states participating in the nation's first mandatory market-based effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under the system, large power plants must buy state-issued pollution allowances to burn fossil fuels and release carbon dioxide, starting next year.
The first electronic auction of carbon allowances took place in September, and the second is scheduled for Dec. 17. Based on the initial value of the allowances, Maine will raise about $18 million a year to be placed in a new fund called the Energy and Carbon Savings Trust.
The three trustees in charge of that fund allocated $750,000 from the initial auction to help weatherize the homes of low-income Mainers this winter. But that was done on an emergency basis, and the trustees are now in the process of setting up a permanent system for allocating the money.
The trustees will hear public comments today starting at 10 a.m. at the Public Utilities Commission offices, and they will accept written comments until Dec. 15. Their plan will then go to the Legislature for final approval next month.
"Everyone really agrees the most cost-effective programs and ideas should be funded," Voorhees said. "We need to be running our economy and our homes with as little energy input as possible."
At the same time, Voorhees and others want the trustees to strike a balance and ensure that the funds can be used by different types of customers, including residential, commercial and industrial energy users.
Simply choosing the quickest and least expensive ways to reduce emissions might shift the focus to large-scale industrial projects. "There's some nervousness that the residential sector would never rise to the top," Voorhees said.
He also said the trustees should make decisions based on goals and strategies, not just by picking one project at a time.
Industrial energy users, meanwhile, say the cap-and-trade system's clear goal was to support those projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions most efficiently.
"We, the industrial users, supported (the system) on the condition that the money actually go to mitigate climate change. Our concern is that is not what's happening," said Anthony Buxton, counsel to the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, which represents Maine's largest consumers of electricity.
Buxton said he expects all groups of customers to participate in projects financed by the trust. Some cost-effective technologies, such as efficient lighting, can be used by all types of customers, while others, such as efficient motors, will be used primarily by industries, he said.
In both cases, he said, improving energy efficiency will reduce emissions and help all customers in the long run.
"We don't want all the money. We don't even want half the money. We want everybody to (get money) on the basis of efficiency," Buxton said. "This is not a social welfare program. It's designed to help reduce emissions."
Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: