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Battle over renewable energy raging at State House

Augusta – A group supporting a referendum drive to increase renewable energy in Maine spoke about its plan Wednesday. Meanwhile, Governor LePage vehemently spoke out against it.

The Maine Citizens For Clean Energy came out in support of the proposal that would require at least 20% of Maine’s electricity to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

At Wednesday’s press conference the Maine Citizens for Clean Energy released findings from a study done by the non-profit group Environment Northeast that analyzed the impact the ballot initiative would have on Maine ratepayers. The study came up with two possible scenarios.

The first scenario says residential electric bills would initially climb by 84 cents per month before coming down an estimated $4.40 a month by 2020. The second scenario is less optimistic. Under the second scenario the initial increase to ratepayers would be around 95 cents a month by 2015. By 2020, electric bills bills would be 33 cents higher than under the current law. By 2030, the findings say electric bills would be 34 cents lower than under current law. Beth Nagusky, the Director for ENE says either way electric bills would initially rise by less than $1.00 before the long term savings begin. “But we would have fostered billions of dollars of investment in private energy investment in our state,” Nagusky told reporters Wednesday. “We would have created thousands of jobs. We would have reduced how much money we send out of state for fossil fuels. And we would have produced cleaner healthier air for Maine people.” The group says it would cut our dependence on foreign oil, strengthen the economy, and promote energy efficiency. “The status quo, business-as-usual approach is the most costly and worst course of action,” said Nagusky. “We have a choice that will lower energy costs, provide clean energy and healthier air, create local jobs and pump more hard-earned Maine dollars into our local economies. Claims that this ballot question will raise energy prices are flawed.”

But Governor LePage says not so fast. LePage said Wednesday the people behind this initiative are among the greediest people in Maine. “If these people get their way we’re not going to be able to bring business to Maine,” LePage said. “You know people have told me on a number of occasions you need to lower your energy costs so you’re competitive. This is not making us competitive. We’ve already had it analyzed by the energy office. By the public utilities commission. And this is a job killer.”

LePage says the initial rate hikes would hurt Mainers who simply can’t afford it. “In the long term people that are some of the poorest wage earners in the country are going to be slapped with additional higher electricity rates to pad some of the pockets of special interests. Which are pretty well padded already,” LePage said.

Governor LePage says there’s no need to wait until 2020, Maine could have inexpensive energy right now with hydropower. “These people are the same people that call hydroelectricity, up to 100 megawatts green energy, but if you go over 100 megawatts it’s no longer green energy. Because the state of Maine could be buying cheap energy today and lower the cost, not in 2020 or 2030, but but we could lower the cost now but they won’t let us because of the legislation.”

The group needs 57,000 signatures by the end of the month to get the measure on a state wide ballot. They said they’re confident they’ll reach that number.