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Short-sighted energy policies in the '90s led to current situation

Angus King’s advocacy for wind power does not explain how things got this way.

How interesting that The Maine Sunday Telegram would devote virtually the entire cover of its Insight section (June 5) to the self-serving rhetoric of wind energy advocate and entrepreneur Angus King.

As governor of Maine, Mr. King oversaw the dismantling of Maine’s electrical utility system, including that system’s ability to generate low-cost nuclear and hydro-electric energy. As a direct result of what was billed then as “de-regulation,” Maine’s residential electricity costs are among the highest in the nation and have been increasing by double-digit percentage rates every year since King signed into law these voodoo energy economics policies that have plagued Maine consumers for more than a decade.

How interesting, too, that former Gov. King’s long-winded, pro-wind diatribe is grounded in the principle of “no free lunch,” when, in fact, the financial success of his company – Highland Wind LLC – is dependent on a free lunch. The twisted financial calculus that Gov. King signed into law dictates that all energy suppliers in Maine are compensated at the same rate per kilowatt hour, based on the highest fuel cost being borne by the mix of providers. What that means in practical terms is that producers who burn natural gas to stoke turbines – those with the highest fuel costs – set the rate at which those with lower fuel costs – or in the case of wind, no fuel costs – are paid. No free lunch?

Highland Wind has no fuel costs, yet will be paid the same rate as competitors burning natural gas, who have substantial fuel costs.

There is no question that Maine finds itself at the bottom of a very deep energy hole. How it got there has less to do with Saudi princes, as Mr. King suggests, than it does with short-sighted politicians who “fixed” what wasn’t broken and now stand eager to enrich themselves while picking up the pieces.

Tom Walsh of Gouldsboro is a journalist who has written about energy issues.