Maine officially joins the energy crisis

Senator Trey Stewart delivers this week’s radio address.

By Senator Trey Stewart

Sen. Trey Stewart – Aroostook

On Tuesday, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced that electric rates for 2022 are rising across the board. The news comes on the heels of already skyrocketing gas and fuel oil prices in Maine, adding to the struggles many Maine families are already enduring just trying to heat their homes and fill their gas tanks.

Hello, I am Senator Trey Stewart of Aroostook County and I wish I had better news in this week’s Republican Radio Address.

As you may have heard, your bill will increase by an average of 83.2 percent if you’re a customer of Central Maine Power (CMP), according to the Maine PUC in their broadcast on Wednesday. If you’re unlucky enough to live a little farther north in Versant Power’s Bangor Hydro District, the Maine PUC said Tuesday that your rates will increase by 89 percent. Here in the County, rates will go up by 66 percent.

According to Public Utilities Commission Chair Philip Bartlett, residential customers in the Bangor Hydro District, which covers most of Penobscot County as well as Hancock, Piscataquis and Washington counties, will see their power supply rate rise from 6.2 cents per kilowatt hour (KWH) to 11.68 cents. For CMP customers, he said those rates will go from 6.44 cents to 11.816 cents per KWH. In both cases, it will increase the average monthly bill by $30 or $360 a year for households using 550 kilowatt hours per month.

Bartlett said the new rate stems from the increase in natural gas prices, which has driven up wholesale electricity prices across the region. Here in Maine, roughly half of your electric bill is based on supply prices while the other half covers distribution costs. Electricity supply is not regulated by CMP and Versant – these folks simply deliver the power and collect the supply cost at the levels determined by the PUC. In short, their hands are tied by what the state tells them to do and what to purchase.

So how did we get here? Energy policy in Maine – and all of New England – is difficult. That makes it easier for self-serving environmental groups to push policies that favor wind and solar over more competitive power generation alternatives. This would be like the Department of Agriculture banning the purchase of steak, then requiring all Mainers to eat only kale and lettuce and buy those vegetables at five times the cost of a ribeye.

This is the way Democrats in Augusta think. They don’t think you’re smart enough to make “Socially Responsible” decisions, so they make them for us. Oftentimes, Republicans in Maine have been villainized by this administration and the Democrats for “hating the environment” when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a fifth-generation County native and have a deep love for our environment here in Maine. However, we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and push policies that hurt our seniors, our veterans, and others that are on fixed incomes with no way to cover this cost.

Instead of looking out for those most vulnerable among us, Maine Democrats took a page out of the D.C. playbook and doubled-down on their expensive “Green New Deal” for Maine, which will be paid for in our electric bills each month.

On Tuesday, the Governor’s Energy Office issued a statement opining that New England relies too much on fossil fuels and the only answer is to move to more green energy solutions. Yes, you heard that right. Too bad, we’re going to double-down on our position.

Governor Mills added that Mainers should invest more in electric heat pumps. Let’s recap – Mills and her foot soldiers in the legislature, drunk on the Kool-Aid served up by big environmental groups, created this problem by signing above-market contracts with wind and solar companies. And the solution is for you to spend more money installing heat pumps in your house so you have to use even more electricity that they just made more costly.

Moving back to our prior analogy, this would be like Governor Mills telling you that you can’t eat steak, but that you should definitely build a greenhouse so you can grow your own vegetables to avoid paying so much for them at the grocery store. Yes, these are actually the ideas that progressive Democrats have been pushing in the Maine State House. It’s absurd – every day crazier than the last.

The bottom line is that the Democrats in D.C. and Augusta, led by President Biden and Governor Mills, are dead set on policies that support their friends in the environmental movement. After less than one year under President Biden and just under three with Governor Mills, the results are pretty clear: more money to fill up your gas tank, more money to fill up your oil tank, and a doubling of your electric bill each month – not to mention cost increases on everything else you purchase.

It’s apparent that Maine Democrats care more about high-fives and campaign contributions from solar and wind companies than the folks they represent. My friends and I on the Republican side of the aisle will continue to defend the wall for those Mainers that are getting up and heading to work in the cold every morning. We are less than 50 weeks away from the next election, so keep these things in mind next time you hear someone ranting and raving about their electric car. Remember, you’re paying the bill.

Again, I am Senator Trey Stewart for Aroostook. Have a great weekend.

Senator Trey Stewart is the ranking Republican for the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.

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