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What every Maine ratepayer needs to know  

Credit:  Long Islander, July 8, 2012, windtaskforce.org ~~

On July 1, CMP customers suffered a 19.6% increase in electrical transmission rates. They did so rather unknowingly because to the best of our knowledge none of the state’s newspapers thought this was news enough to write about it, to say nothing of connecting the dots in an investigative piece.

Here are just a few of the facts. Please consider jumping in and adding some of your own. If this state ever needed a CITIZENS’ ratepayer group it is now. One comprised of thousands of citizens who want to lend their names to a true watchdog group to rein in the electricity industry in this state. An online petition might be a good first step also.

— Transmission rates went up for CMP customers by 19.6% on July 1, 2012. That is a gigantic % increase. Anyone who tries to call it anything else or otherwise minimize it is either not paying attention or has an agenda.

“The major driver for these increases is the change in federally regulated transmission rates, which for CMP will increase by 19.6% and for BHE will increase by 12%” (Maine PUC press release, June 28, 2012 – below)

— As best we can tell, the newspapers in this state did not write one sentence on this gigantic increase affecting hundreds of thousands of ratepayers, including businesses – you know, those entities who we’d like to see start hiring again. Why they did not regard this as a needed service for their readers is a mystery.

— As acknowledged by the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) post below, “The July 1 rate increases reflect the costs of recent and ongoing transmission reliability upgrades”.

— With regard to the 19.6% increase for CMP customers, the name of the primary driver is the so called “Maine Power Reliability Project” (MPRP) otherwise known as the $1.5 billion CMP upgrade.

— The MPUC announcement below seems to try to imply that it is not the MPUC that has had a hand in this but rather federal regulations. But that is hollow because what has wrought the causative CMP upgrade was its approval by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

— There were many who made incredibly valid arguments as to why the CMP upgrade was not needed. There were public hearings and some of the testimony can be read by downloading the following file:

MPRP_Selected_PUC_Public%20Hearings.zip

— MPUC staff raised objections, including a report saying the upgrade could be accomplished for far less than the $1.5 billion pricetag, $667 million to be exact. The Portland Press Herald reported on this in 2010 writing “Maine can have a reliable power grid for substantially less money, and with far fewer transmission towers and substations, than the $1.5 billion project Central Maine Power Co. is proposing, the staff of the Public Utilities Commission has concluded. In an analysis made available late Tuesday, the PUC staff said CMP has overstated and accelerated the need for its Maine Power Reliability Program, in part by using forecasts for growth in electricity use that have become outdated since the recession started.”

The link to this is www.onlinesentinel.com/archive/report-cmp-overstates-need-for-project.html

But the MPUC commisioners ignored their staff’s recommendation.

— Onetime Governor Baldacci chief counsel Kurt Adams was MPUC Chairman at the time the MPUC was working on the CMP upgrade. It was later learned that he had been interviewing for several months with a wind company, First Wind, whom he would eventually take a job with. While MPUC Chairman, he also took over $1 million in stock options from First Wind according to the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting who wrote a several part investigative series on this which can be read at:

PUC chairman took equity stake in wind company

First Wind SEC filing change questioned

Group asks AG to probe official of First Wind

Adams investigation finds no conflict

— The job that Adams took at First Wind was Director of Transmission. You can’t make this stuff up. Adams still works at this company which is the most active wind developer in the state. This is the company whose chief outside counsel, Verrill Dana’s Juliet Browne, is married to Maine state representative Jon Hinck who sits on the Energy and Utilities Committee which last year killed all 13 citizen sponsored bills regulating wind power. These bills led to what was called the Fitts Ammendment named after EUT committee co-chair Stacey Fitts whose company’s website had BOASTED “we have been very active in the development of state regulations in Maine where one of Kleinschmidt’s engineers is a member of the Governor’s Ocean Energy Task Force”. You can read about that here.

— The stated need for the CMP upgrade was reliability. It’s the Maine Power Reliability Project. But what is done with a wink is that everyone at the MPUC and CMP knows that the reason the grid “needs” to be made more reliable is that the grid as it previously existed was not equipped to handle the thermal overload caused by sputtering wind and only sputtering wind. Wind is unpredictable and if it suddenly surges, the grid can be overloaded. Like you plug in too many appliances and you trip a circuit breaker or blow a fuse. Except what can happen on the grid is the grid goes down and we have a widespread blackout. All because it cannot handle wind. Do not confuse this with wind’s efficacy. In fact, it is a very diluted highly inefficient energy source and Maine’s onshore wind resource is actually 89% below the national average. despite the fact that hucksters like Angus King told us we were “Saudi Arabia of Wind” in good old confidence game speak. But it can once in a while surge and destabilize the grid. One way to look at this is widening Interstate 95 to 20 lanes for the one or two times a year a truck with an extremely wide load has to come through.

— The stated reason for the need for reliability was primarily population growth and the fact there had not been an upgrade in 40 years. However, it can be shown that population projections for the entire northeast (New England and NY, NJ and PA) over the next 20 years are for only 3.4% growth. TOTAL over the 20 years. You can see the data on that here. Also, anyone who pays CMP bills can read the back of the bill and know that they are paying a charge to keep the lines maintained. Every month.Hundreds of thousands of ratepayers funding maintenance every month. Every year.

— The truth finally came out on wind being the real reason for the CMP upgrade: From a news report in the Portland Press-Herald: “Galan’s statements agitated Maine’s wind power opponents, who said they suspected all along that the transmission line upgrade was motivated more by Iberdrola’s desire to develop wind power than any concerns about reliability. “This makes it clear that the (transmission line project) wasn’t about replacing lines, it was about making Maine an industrial wind site,” said Steve Thurston, co-chair of the Citizens’ Task Force on Wind Power”. The article can be read here.

— Another personnel situation at the MPUC that is a conflict in the eyes of many Maine citizens who have been paying attention to this, is David Littell. The alleged conflict is that as MPUC commissioner Littell must ensure that rates are “just and reasonable for both consumers and utilities”. (www.maine.gov/mpuc/about/index.shtml) But at his other job, that of Chairperson for the northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), Littell is basically required to shove grossly expensive wind power and thus transmission down ratepayers’ throats. (www.rggi.org/rggi/board/David_Littell)

— The wind industry likes to scream JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, despite the fact that most are temporary and often filled by specialized out of state wind crews. The reality is these jobs pale by comparison to the jobs that are at risk by Maine’s electricity rates going yet higher, something they will certainly do if we do not stop this madness. (To say nothing about wind factory/transmission blight’s effect on tourism and property values).

— Governor Baldacci went out of his way to not associate the CMP Upgrade with his wind power cheerleading and in doing so protected the wind industry from the wrath of the ratepayer. The fact is that transmission expenses are a huge cost associated with wind, wherever we see wind projects go up in the world. And this is on top of the long list of government subsidies and other preferential treatment that the wind industry enjoys at the expense of taxpayers. Governor Baldacci’s administration was complicit in hiding the transmission cost by popularizing false reasons for the transmission buildout. Our old lines had received extraordinary ratepayer-funded maintenance and were perfectly good. If building these infernal wind factories all over the hallowed Maine landscape is the crime, then the transmission is the getaway car. And YOU get to pay for it.

— The powers that be like to point out that because Maine is but 8% of the ISO-NE grid, we pay only 8% of the $1.5 billion MPRP cost, with the other states picking up the other 92%. But what they NEVER say is that estimates are for perhaps $30 billion in similar wind-caused upgrades for other parts of the New England grid and that we will pay 8% of those as well. So multiply 8% by $30 billion and divide by Maine’s ratepayers and we are talking thousands of dollars per ratepayer. You are now going to start seeing this in your CMP bill. So if you look up and don’t see a turbine towering over your hard won little green acre, look down and you’ll see one in your electric bill and we’ve only just begun.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

MPUC Announces Electricity Rate Changes for CMP and BHE Customers
June 28, 2012
www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=puc-pressreleases&id=403393&v=article08

Augusta, Maine – New electricity delivery rates for customers of Central Maine Power (CMP) and Bangor Hydro Electric (BHE) have been approved by the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The new delivery rates –which include distribution and transmission costs in all CMP and BHE customer classes—are effective as of July 1, 2012. These changes do not affect electricity supply prices, such as for standard offer service.

For CMP customers, the new rates reflect an overall increase of 7.1% for the delivery portion of the bill. The rate change for BHE customers is an overall increase of approximately 4.5%. Customers may see rate changes that differ from the overall levels, depending on their class of service. “The major driver for these increases is the change in federally regulated transmission rates, which for CMP will increase by 19.6% and for BHE will increase by 12%,” said Commission Chairman Thomas Welch. “CMP and BHE transmission rates cover the costs of transmission systems in Maine, as well as a portion of the costs of inter-state systems throughout the New England region. The July 1 rate increases reflect the costs of recent and ongoing transmission reliability upgrades.”

Background: Electricity in Maine is comprised of power delivery (transmission, distribution, metering and billing) which is fully regulated, and power supply (production and provision of electric energy and capacity) which is controlled by market competition. Maine electricity consumers receive delivery service from a transmission and distribution utility (like CMP or BHE), and supply service from a Maine-licensed competitive electricity provider. The Commission fully regulates the operations and rates of the transmission and delivery utilities, except for transmission rates which are regulated by the FERC. CMP and BHE are two of Maine’s three investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities. For more information, go to www.maine.gov/mpuc.

Citizen ratepayer group and petition anyone?

Source:  Long Islander, July 8, 2012, windtaskforce.org

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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