FMM Testifies on Renewable & Climate Legislation


This session many bills have been introduced that seek to combat climate change and expand renewable electricity in Maine. While no single bill specifically promotes onshore wind energy, the Wind Lobby is supporting several initiatives. FMM has been asking policymakers to use math, facts, and science as they consider “solutions” to what they identify as problems, and to carefully quantify impacts and benefits in all proposals. This week the Wind Lobby presented its featured legislation, LD 1494, which seeks to increase Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Below is FMM’s testimony. (Click on bold links for attachments.)

Life Support Plug.jpg

May 8, 2019

Senator Lawrence and Representative Berry, and members of the Utilities Committee, I am Chris O’Neil, Public Affairs Director at Friends of Maine’s Mountains. FMM testifies against LD 1494, with a friendly amendment that would make the legislation more effective and more palatable.

FMM educates the public about the high impacts and low benefits of Maine land-based wind energy development.  In that role, FMM has spent the last decade protecting Maine’s iconic Quality of Place from this very destructive form of industrialization. At the same time, FMM has always advocated for sensible clean energy and environmental policy.

First, FMM continues to urge you – as we have all year – to park the legislation presented today, and to collaboratively work with the dozen or so other similar bill sponsors, the governor, and the various interested parties before moving forward with any broad energy/climate policy reforms, including the proposals to revisit renewable portfolio mandates. Coordination of effort is already ongoing, and it is imperative that it continues.

Second, FMM is pleased that Mainers have finally parsed our dialogue such that energy does not mean electricity.  As you know from earlier legislation this session, Maine’s various energy sectors must be considered separately, even as they have at least one predominant common denominator: fossil fuel reliance.

Third, please assess the problem, Maine’s role in the problem, and Maine’s possible contributions to any solutions that have been proposed. As you know, Maine electricity generation is already among the cleanest in the nation, with minimal fossil fuel use. At 40% our RPS is the highest in the nation, and our transportation sector emits at least 6 times more CO2 than our electricity sector does. FMM has been pleased to see so many policymakers this year - especially the governor - fixating not on unnecessary, redundant and unaffordable new electricity generation, but on the real CO2 problem and low hanging fruit: fossil fuel use in heating and transportation, which emit ten times more CO2 than electricity does.

Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 3.02.11 PM.png

If Maine could successfully electrify those energy sectors using TODAY’S ELECTRIC FLEET mix, we would achieve exponential CO2 reductions. 

FMM thinks an 80% clean electricity portfolio is achievable in 10-20 years, but if this legislation is to be the vehicle, it needs three modifications: 

1.     The first modification is to eliminate the 100 megawatt limitation on qualifying resources.  Renewables are renewables, and if we are going to electrify our present fossil-fired energy needs, we are going to need a lot of electricity (in a moment I will provide an estimate of how much). 

2.     The second amendment is to eliminate the word “renewable” altogether.  The Connecticut approach that targets “zero carbon” electricity is a far more practical and effective model. An alternative would be for us to define and mandate “low carbon electricity.”  Our continued use of the term “renewable” is tantamount to our persisting at using the term “8-track” to describe “music.”

3.     The third amendment recognizes that this is an opportunity to finally stop the senseless bifurcation Maine created when we wrote two definitions of renewables.  We now have in statute “renewable resources” and “new renewable resources.”  We should consider only the former.  The latter was employed to ramp up new generation, and it worked. Maine has now achieved both of its statutory RPS benchmarks, so this is an opportune time to combine the two. Doing so we can more clearly follow the path to 80% clean electricity…or maybe 100% clean electricity.

I call your attention to an important distinction.  Maine’s RPS governs not Maine’s generation fleet, but the electricity supplied by “competitive electricity providers” from whom utilities deliver our power. Attached is the latest generation mix spread sheet for Maine.  As you can see, Maine is already very close to 80% renewable generation. We “got off” burning oil and coal a long time ago.  

Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 4.38.04 PM.png

But also attached is the latest “uniform disclosure label” from Central Maine Power Company

Are you shocked to see that more than 20% of the electricity CMP customers use came from coal & oil?  

CMP Disclosure

CMP Disclosure

Are you surprised to learn that although 19% of Maine generation in 2018 was from natural gas, CMP delivered 53% gas-fired electricity?

Did you know that almost all the wind generation in Maine does not get delivered to CMP customers, even though CMP’s $1.4 billion Maine Power Reliability Project was built to accommodate wind energy? 

Note for what it’s worth that Emera’s disclosure for the same period blows away the RPS, but they still deliver a lot of imported coal power.  

emera maine disclosure

emera maine disclosure

FMM’s purpose in submitting the CMP portfolio is so you are mindful of the difference between generation and consumption. For the period, CMP’s customers got only 15.7 % of their power from renewables, while the Maine generation fleet was almost 80% renewable. Be mindful that cost is a major reason why. Also consider that a hodgepodge of mandates, rules and laws have resulted in this flawed outcome.

If you thought that was odd, consider how much we pay power plants to burn fuel and maintain steam. The attached “Capacity Payment” spread sheet is a stark illustration of the mess we’ve created. As you can see, Maine’s fleet of modern natural gas generators is sitting idle almost all the time. Yet ratepayers are still forking over hundreds of millions in capacity payments to keep those generators in business. More revenue for sitting there than for generating electricity! If CMP and Emera replaced all their imported coal- and oil-generated delivery with gas generation procured from these local plants, both Maine’s emissions and costs would plummet. Hence FMM’s distinction between “renewable” and “low carbon” generation. In a perfect world, “zero carbon” (not always renewable, and could mean nuclear) would be the ideal. But because our policy favors renewable and particularly “new” renewable, we are stuck with imported expensive oil and coal rather than gas when the grid needs dispatchability. Remember that the grid operator continues to warn us about energy security (keeping the lights on when the switch is flipped).

capacity payments exceed energy sales

capacity payments exceed energy sales


Current RPS and other policies incentivize the construction of new generation, irrespective of need, and the redundancy is paid for by ratepayers (and to a degree, federal taxpayers). Maine’s existing generation fleet could at full output provide enough electricity for four Maines. Yet for several years running Maine has been a net importer of electricity. A transmission line must prove necessity before obtaining a license. Hospitals must earn a “certificate of need” before purchasing costly equipment. But Maine policy senselessly invites and pays all comers when it comes to electricity generation. 

KatahdinBlake.png

Last, as always, FMM urges that you consider the impacts and benefits in any policy proposal.  Opponents of this legislation will remind you of potential costs, which will be highly speculative. For perspective about the benefits, we have actually calculated how much potential good can come of this and other climate legislation:  

If Maine’s entire electricity sector converted to zero-carbon, it would reduce 1.4 MMT of CO2 annually.  Subtracted from the 36,000 MMT of global CO2, that would result in 4/1000ths of one percent decarbonization.

If Maine could decarbonize its entire 16 MMT of CO2 from all energy sectors, it would result in 3/100ths of one percent global CO2 reduction. 

Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 4.49.03 PM.png

If complete decarbonization of Maine electricity were akin to prescribing upon me a diet, and if pounds were equated to CO2, the diet would promise me a weight loss of 1/10th of one ounce.  If that diet could be equated to complete decarbonization of all Maine energy sectors, my weight loss would be one ounce. I’d have to ask myself if the discomfort of eating tofu and drinking Tab all day were worth such a tiny outcome.

So before we delude ourselves into thinking Maine can make some significant climate difference in a world where developing nations are building coal plants and increasingly burning fossil fuels at breakneck pace as their economies develop, we need to keep this perspective on how little good we can actually achieve even in a best-case scenario. 

This is not to assert that Maine should not do its part; more that Maine is doing its part, however tiny, and our expectations of maximum global benefit should be factored directly against the amount of impact we are willing to tolerate in exchange for that benefit. Right now, the Seabrook Power plant could theoretically supply all of Maine’s electricity customers. But electricity is a small piece of the energy pie. As we have said, to reduce CO2 in Maine, you have to look at sectors like heating and transport. There is lots of talk about electrifying Maine: switching to heat pumps and electric vehicles. To electrify every BTU (nearly 400 trillion) of consumed energy in Maine would require the equivalent of 34 Seabrook power plants, or 3500 Mars Hill Wind projects. Not to mention unfathomable amounts of transmission. Simply ludicrous notions even if the result were meaningful. But are we willing/able to go there, for 3/100ths of one percent global CO2 reduction?

BDN Photo

BDN Photo

Maine now hosts 400 massive wind turbines, almost all built to satisfy arbitrary procurements from southern New England. Maine has exceeded our maximum capacity for these sprawling projects. Mainers are increasingly resisting the industrialization of our Maine Brand, our signature Quality of Place. Recently Maine has become engulfed in furor about a power line for Massachusetts that proposes 800 utility poles, 10 stories tall, nestled into the woods. Imagine the uproar over the 2500 Mars Hill wind turbines at 40 stories tall, (plus transmission) that would be required for an equivalent delivery of energy, albeit unpredictably. 

Record hill & ellis pond, with mt. blue in the distance, from east baldpate, appalachian trail

Record hill & ellis pond, with mt. blue in the distance, from east baldpate, appalachian trail

If Maine could somehow find the mountains for just ten more Record Hill Wind projects, enabled by new mandates, some of the proponents of today’s bill would get some work, and work counts for something.  But you are legislators, not job creators, and ten Record Hills would add less than 1% new electricity to the grid, while decimating rural Maine. When the Wind Act was written a decade ago, nobody contemplated the environmental or economic impact of the wind proliferation that was enshrined in statute, and now Maine regrets it. Please think ahead so that you can compare the impacts and benefits of these ideas. 

comparing impacts vs benefits is crucial

comparing impacts vs benefits is crucial

For example, another bill in your possession proposes solar panels on schools. Neat idea. But what would it actually achieve, and at what cost? Assuming Maine’s 620 public schools each installed 100 solar panels, they would together add 15.5 megawatts to the 4000+ megawatts of overall generation capacity in Maine, and to the 35,000 megawatts of overall capacity in New England. Assuming a generous 15% capacity factor, this new school-solar generation would be about 20,400 megawatthours, which would be 16/1000ths of one percent of New England’s 125,000,000 megawatthours. The CO2 ROI from this $62 million “investment “would obviously be too small to measure. Again, a noble pursuit, but essentially inconsequential.

As you amalgamate the many proposals before you – and before other committees – please quantify impacts & benefits.  There are lots of ideas on the table, but we need to avoid blindly following the unsustainable “all of the above energy pathway.” 

FMM’s recommendations if you choose to move forward with this legislation:

- Eliminate any reference to “new” renewable or capacity resource in Sec. 3210.

- Eliminate the size limit for renewable generation.

- Define “zero-carbon” or “low carbon” resource and substitute it for “renewable.”

  

CMP - Hydro Quebec Update, Public Comment

You’ve surely heard plenty of chatter about the Central Maine Power Company / Hydro Quebec power line. It is called New England Clean Energy Connect, or NECEC.  The project is presently seeking approvals in Maine from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), as well as the Massachusetts utility regulator. It is a big deal, and it has elicited vehement opposition in Maine that is reminiscent of fights like Maine Yankee, clear cutting, Big-A, Lily Bay and Bigelow Preserve. Some observers even see uncanny parallels to the “water wars” of 100 years ago, when Governors Baxter and Fernald fought with CMP founder Walter Wyman over his plans to electrify southern New England at rural Maine’s peril. 

This is an FMM update, followed by a call to action asking you to submit comment. 

NECEC proposes to deliver 1200 megawatts of power from Quebec through Maine to satisfy a Massachusetts policy initiative that drew dozens of bids in an RFP process. Massachusetts and the New England grid system (ISO-NE, of which Maine is a member) need to fill a void resulting from the retirement over a decade of several reliable power plants that collectively generate at least 5000 megawatts.  

It was welcome news for Maine that Massachusetts awarded the bid to big hydro rather than the scores of Maine wind “farms” that submitted proposals. Of course, wind cannot provide the base load or peak load power that is urgently needed to avoid huge cost spikes and “rolling blackouts” that the ISO-NE has been warning us about. The fact that hydro is clean (or relatively clean) energy was a bonus for us, because Maine sits at the tailpipe of America.  

NextEra Energy Resources (NEER) is an intervenor in the PUC’s NECEC Case. NEER is adamantly against the NECEC line, as NEER has plans for several wind projects in Western Maine.  See NEER submission showing where it wants new converter stations to accommodate its numerous wind & solar proposals. Of course, the wind lobby is against NECEC because a HVDC line would exclude adjacent wind projects from connecting to it, absent very costly converter stations… none of which should not be a consideration for the PUC in this case. NEER has submitted RFP responses in Southern New England for almost 500 MW in Maine wind projects.  

NextEra is one of many wind developers hoping to tank the NECEC

NextEra is one of many wind developers hoping to tank the NECEC

 NEER also owns Seabrook Station, and if NECEC results in a fraction of a penny reduction in ISO-NE energy costs, Seabrook could take a multi-million dollar haircut annually. 

 The PUC case has gone on for a year, but NEER is doing its best to gum up the works. This week, NEER moved that the PUC delay the hearings AGAIN.  

 NRCM, MREA, Renew Maine and other wind lobbyists this week are supporting NEER’s delay tactics. Those groups, along with Sierra, Conservation Law Foundation, and other intervenors have steadily opposed NECEC for two primary reasons: 

1. Big Hydro isn’t as “clean” as some people say it is, and 

2. They would rather see Maine host unfettered wind and solar generation instead.  

Depending on one’s perspective, the latter would be inconvenient at best and would be catastrophic at worst, and it only requires some simple math to see why. For example:

Look at two existing Maine power sources that have the same generating capacity: An Aroostook wind project, and every solar panel in Maine. It would take 102 wind projects the size of Mars Hill (that would be 2800 turbines plus multiple power lines) to theoretically equal the power delivered by NECEC. Or it would take ALL the present 4108 (both rooftop & grid scale) solar installations in Maine times 190. Even if Maine had enough real estate, of course, neither wind nor solar could fill the New England need for reliable generation.

42 MW total installed Maine solar, operating at 15% capacity factor = 6.3 MW

6.3 MW X 190 = 1200 MW 

Mars Hill is 28 wind turbines with 42 MW capacity, operating at 28% capacity factor = 11.76 MW

11.76 MW X 102 = 1200 MW

The PUC is scheduled to resume evidentiary hearings (with dozens of lawyers and very expensive expert witnesses traveling to Hallowell, Maine) on October 30. The PUC’s Hearing Examiners are expected any time now to rule whether to accept or deny NEER’s delay motion. 

 FMM is an intervenor also. FMM’s position is that Massachusetts isn’t doing enough to site its own reliable generation, but instead looks upon Maine as a power plantation. That said, FMM has always promoted a sober analysis of impact versus benefit when considering such projects, and CMP has indicated a willingness to compromise. FMM assumes that in the near future that no nuclear plants will be proposed anywhere between Provincetown and Stockbridge. FMM could support the NECEC if there are guarantees that the HVDC line would not allow adjacent wind projects to connect, and if the corridor will not be expanded to accommodate same, and if Massachusetts commits to shouldering more of the energy infrastructure burden. 

 Whether you are for or against the NECEC, you could submit public comment to the PUC saying the hearings should continue as scheduled (already very far behind) so Mainers can settle this divisive matter.  The longer NECEC’s decision is delayed, the longer hundreds and thousands of planned wind turbines remain in queue, viable on paper, lurking over Maine. 

 It would not hurt to mention that the PUC’s “necessity” decision should not be influenced by important albeit irrelevant issues like visual impact or the endless debate about whether big hydro is very clean or somewhat clean. And the decision certainly shouldn't be influenced by NEER’s dreams of building massive Maine wind projects. 

 For months, the above groups have been rallying the public against NECEC. They have issued multiple call to action notices, urging members to flood the PUC with opposition comments. FMM has not done that because while FMM is on record as against the NECEC, FMM also recognizes that the issue is more complicated than many have depicted it, and that if done properly, its benefits could exceed its impacts. 

 Today, FMM simply urges concerned Mainers to submit an online comment with the PUC urging them to deny NextEra’s delay motion.  

Just click this link, type case number 2017-00232 and submit your comment. 

####

 

 

FMM Consultant Resigns from Governor's Wind Commission

Thanking Governor Paul LePage for the “honor” of being appointed, Chris O’Neil has withdrawn from the controversial Maine Wind Energy Advisory Commission. O’Neil is a private consultant and lobbyist who has represented Friends of Maine’s Mountains (FMM) since 2009.

Christopher O’Neil

Christopher O’Neil

“While I was the governor’s appointee,” O’Neil said, “it might have appeared that my participation on the Commission was on behalf of FMM. So I consulted with the FMM board of directors before submitting my resignation, and they concurred with me.”

FMM President Brad Blake praised O’Neil’s decision. “FMM has many irons in many fires at this time, and it makes sense for Chris to focus his finite time and energy on those matters which are most pressing.”

FMM is an intervenor in two adjudicatory proceedings: the RoxWind case at the Department of Environmental Protection and the CMP-Hydro Quebec case at the Public Utilities Commission. O’Neil is also monitoring the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities as it adjudicates the CMP-Hydro Quebec procurement. FMM also anticipates multiple wind development applications that have been mothballed could start to reappear because the CMP-Hydro Quebec project seems to be stalling.

“Chris O’Neil is FMM’s liaison to over 300 legislative and gubernatorial candidates, and with elections just weeks away, he has lots of educating to do,” Blake added. “It just made sense to invest FMM’s resources where they stand to yield the highest returns.”

Blake praised LePage for taking the wind threat seriously, and for the courage to speak out against it, but he agrees with O’Neil that the Wind Energy Advisory Commission is unlikely to produce results. “We’ve been studying the folly of wind energy for a decade, and we really don’t need another study that kicks the can down the proverbial road while wind developers continue their assault on Maine. What we need,” Blake said, “is simply a repeal of the heinous Expedited Wind Act.”

O’Neil’s letter to the governor is a public document, so FMM has decided to publish it HERE.

FMM’s comment to the Commission can be found HERE.

Update on the CMP / Hydro Quebec Power Line

The Public Utilities Commission continues its proceeding for the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC) project.  A decision is expected sometime around year-end.  You still have time to comment in Maine and in Massachusetts.

Instead of one transmission line, Maine could host 2800 of these Mars Hill craters, and transmission lines, and dirty capacity power plants would still be needed.  

Instead of one transmission line, Maine could host 2800 of these Mars Hill craters, and transmission lines, and dirty capacity power plants would still be needed. 

On August 15 the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities will hold a public hearing.  Written comments may be submitted to: alan.topalian@state.ma.us

In Maine, the Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing later this year, TBA.  You may submit your comment now by clicking here.

FMM is an intervenor in the case and it remains opposed to Massachusetts energy projects that should be sited in Massachusetts instead of Maine. FMM is on record stating that it could support the New England Clean Energy Connect under three conditions:

1.  That the corridor will host only the High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) Transmission line with no opportunity to "on-ramp" future Maine wind projects along the route.

2.  That no expansion of the corridor for Alternating Current (AC) transmission be allowed (which could accommodate future Maine wind projects).

3.  That Massachusetts agrees to allow critical pipeline infrastructure that protects Maine/New England ratepayers from exorbitant peak pricing. 

FMM has publicly criticized certain environmental groups like the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) because those groups have simply said NO to the NECEC (and previously to the Northern Pass in New Hampshire) while saying YES to every wind project to-date in the ten years since the heinous Expedited Wind Law was unanimously enacted under the cover of darkness in the Maine Legislature.  They have repeatedly and dutifully said YES to Big Wind despite the miniscule potential for reducing emissions or any other material benefit. Amazingly, neither group uttered a peep when the legislature raised the speed limit to 75 MPH, even though in Maine TRANSPORTATION is responsible for SIX TIMES more CO2 than ELECTRICITY.  

Where are their priorities?

Both so-called "environmental" stewards have done much good over the decades, but both are on record in this case opposing the NECEC in part because they would prefer to see Maine's mountains destroyed with thousands of wind turbines. Their lack of critical thinking is confounding.

Sure, it feels good to add wind and solar to our mix.  But the base load and peak load plants that have been and will be closing in New England cannot and will not be replaced (or even displaced) by wind and solar, neither of which provide grid-dispatchability. Moreover, CLF and NRCM decry the devastation caused by one swath of 120' tall power lines, while they're uncompromisingly complicit with thousands (yes thousands) of wind turbines towering, thumping and blinking 500 feet above the ridges of Maine's North Woods.

Yes the power line has an impact, but these opponents apparently don't calculate impact vs benefit. It seems that they just want what feels good. 


FMM's position is if Bay State politicians want to bow to CLF's lobbyists and they decide to mandate feel-good electricity, they should also mandate that it be located in Massachusetts. If there isn't room for it there, then these HVDC lines are the next best option.

Electricity does not and will not be confined by borders. So which electricity do we choose? 

Some mathematical perspective: Either project -- the Northern Pass or the New England Clean Energy Connect -- would provide roughly the equivalent power that the Seabrook (zero emission) nuclear plant provides. But we've evidently ruled out nukes, so what then? 


Feel-good wind all over Maine.  But at what cost?

Let's look at the largest wind projects in New England:  Kibby and Bingham. The sprawling Kibby Wind project sailed through the permitting process with minor opposition despite its massive impact on huge Maine wildlands. FMM was the ONLY opponent to the Bingham Wind Project, which planted 500' tall turbines at high elevation/visibility over a 16 mile stretch AND many more miles of power lines all the way to Parkman.  Both of these “clean energy” wind projects harm water and wildlife over thousands of acres and they violate the scenic experience along pretty much all of Maine’s 280 miles of Appalachian Trail, not merely 200 yards across the Kennebec gorge.


Where were CLF, NRCM and their allies when Bingham and Kibby were built for Massachusetts utilities? They weren't on the sidelines, no.  They were among the strongest cheerleaders!

So what did they get for selling out Maine?  

The numbers:


Despite the massive negative impacts of these two wind projects, they don't move the needle on the grid, especially when the power is needed. At 185 MegaWatts nameplate, performing at a generous 30% capacity factor, it would require 20 Bingham projects to (unpredictably) equal the MegaWattHours provided by either NECEC or Northern Pass. It would take 30 Kibby projects or 100 Mars Hill projects.

What would be left of the greatest outdoor experience east of the Mississippi? 

Turbine clusters.jpg


Where would CLF and NRCM choose to erect those thousands of flashing-thumping skyscrapers, the connecting transmission lines, AND the expensive/dirty capacity power plants that would still be required to make the wind turbines useful for the New England grid?

If you agree with FMM that Massachusetts should not be desecrating Maine's unique Quality of Place...

If you agree that feel-good advocates like CLF and NRCM should think more critically about essential energy infrastructure decisions... 

If you agree that that the New England grid needs reliable/dispatchable/clean electricity...

And if you agree that wind energy is an unsustainable alternative, and a disaster for Maine...

...then please write to the Maine PUC here and the Massachusetts DPU here.

Do it today, while the Maine Brand is still salvageable.  

 

 

In Memoriam: Rand Stowell, FMM's Founder

We report with heavy hearts that FMM Chairman of the Board and founder Rand Stowell has passed away.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 9.26.20 AM.png

The Stowell family has been an important part of Maine history for literally centuries.  Although the family's United Timberlands Corporation is no longer a giant of the forest products industry, Rand perpetuated the Stowell tradition of protecting natural resources and Maine's signature Quality of Place. 

Rand founded Friends of Maine's Mountains in 2009, after learning that the legislature had swiftly and without debate passed a sweeping new law that rolled out the red carpet for an unprecedented land use of massive scope and scale: wind energy development.  Rand correctly surmised that Maine would eventually regret pursuing the ambitious goals that the Wind Law established, so he and FMM set out to prevent the massive economic and environmental destruction for so little benefit. 

IMG_2471.jpeg

FMM and the local wind resistance efforts that it supports thank Rand for his leadership and tireless effort. A decade after the torrid onslaught of wind development commenced, Maine is now home to some 400 turbines with 900 megawatts of generating capacity. While the threat persists, and FMM continues the fight, wind developers increasingly appear to be looking offshore. Against extraordinarily difficult odds, the wind resistance movement has held development to below 50% of the statutory goals. While Rand believed 900 megawatts of installed wind capacity is too much for the Maine Brand to withstand, he took great satisfaction in his work to minimize the impact.

IMG_2468.jpg

In a statement from the FMM Board of Directors, spokesman Chris O'Neil praised Rand for his contributions:  

"History will remember Rand Stowell as a key figure in protecting the greatest outdoor experience east of the Mississippi. He was an ardent defender not only of of the mountains but of Maine's very calling card, as so named by the Brookings Institution, it's Quality of Place.  His contributions to establishing and preserving the Maine Brand are nearly as significant as the contributions of Ed Muskie and Percival Baxter. FMM and all of Maine will be forever grateful."

Please CLICK HERE to see Rand's obituary. 

####

 

FMM Intervenes in Power Line Case Before PUC

Friends of Maine's Mountains has been granted intervenor status in the case for Central Maine Power Company's power line from Quebec to the New England grid. In the New England Clean Energy Connect, FMM sees both positive benefits and negative impacts. Although on paper the proposed project is for Massachusetts utilities, it could affect all New England ratepayers, and it could have major ramifications for future Maine wind development.  

FMM prefers that Massachusetts would host its own electricity infrastructure, unlikely as that may be.  FMM would only support the project if certain conditions are required. 

To read FMM's testimony, CLICK HERE at # 103.

Power Lines.png

What's Going On?

A lot.  And not much.

leaders.jpg

 

The Massachusetts RFP was

awarded to the Northern Pass, a High Voltage Direct Current Transmission Line that would provide clean, reliable, dispatchable power.  Mainers were thrilled to learn that Massachusetts selected the good stuff instead of a passel of feckless wind projects in Maine's most precious places.

But then Northern Pass hit a snag when the permitting authority in New Hampshire denied a license for the game-changing transmission line.

Suddenly, the thousands of Maine wind turbines that had bid in the RFP were breathing new life.  

Will the Massachusetts selection committee jettison Northern Pass, or will they stick it out through a potentially long appeal process?  There are alternatives on the table. Since Massachusetts seems intent on importing -- rather than generating its own -- clean energy, Mainers are on guard.  CMP's New England Clean Energy Connect is a strong contender to replace Northern Pass.  

FMM's first priority is to see Massachusetts host its own generation facilities.  But since that is unlikely, and because Maine is intricately connected to Massachusetts via the ISO-New England grid, FMM has been advocating for clean and dispatchable power that can replace/displace the thousands of megawatts of power that is going off-line.  No amount of wind turbines despoiling Maine's Quality of Place can fill the void that New England faces.  

FMM is monitoring the situation and will keep you informed.

Plug.jpg

Maine puts the brakes on Big Wind

Frustrated with the Legislature's years of inaction on reforming the ludicrous Wind Act, and fearing the thousands of turbines bid into the Massachusetts FRP,  Governor Paul LePage issued a de facto moratorium on new wind projects.  He also ordered a study commission that will examine Big Wind's negative impacts on Maine's brand and tourism.   A desired outcome is a fresh look, supported by ten years of data and unfortunate experience,  at the omissions and false presumptions of the 2007 Wind Task Force.

FMM Has Been Sounding the Alarm about

Big Wind's pending threats. While the Wind Act blithely called for 2000 megawatts of installed wind capacity by 2015, Mainers have succeeded in subduing the assault.  Today only 900 megawatts is online, and on average, the grid only gets less than 300 megawatts of power from that multi billion dollar "investment." The 2017 figures say that wind contributed only 3.2 percent of New England's electricity, despite the exorbitant costs. Over a billion dollars has been spent on Maine wind projects. Billions more have been spent on the transmission lines that make it all somewhat possible. And New England ratepayers are now spending billions every year to keep dirty old oil and coal plants afloat and burning fuel for the days and hours when the wind fails to blow. This is unsustainable

Maine Wind Projects

in 2017 accounted for almost 20 percent of all Maine electricity generation.  On the surface this sounds impressive.  But Maine has stopped being a net exporter of electricity and is now a net importer.  Too often, those necessary imports (when the wind isn't blowing) rely on dirty oil and coal from New Brunswick.  This is backwards energy policy, and a clear indicator that Maine has reached its limit, both environmentally and economically. The fabled Maine Quality of Place cannot endure any more industrial wind projects, and the Maine economy cannot endure the cost.

The Maine Legislature

continues to do nothing to stop the greatest threat in history on the Maine Brand.  The 2008 Wind Act passed unanimously with no debate or scrutiny, for reasons that made no sense, environmentally or economically.  The same Maine legislature that presumed it could deploy wind energy to mitigate climate change recently passed a law (unanimously) to allow 75 mPH speeds on the Interstate 95 highways.  This happened unwittingly despite the fact that Maine CO2 emissions from transportation are 6 times higher than CO2 emissions from electricity! 

Ten years later we know what a colossal mistake the Wind Act was, but Big Wind clutches onto its golden ring with understandable zeal, and with lobbying prowess.  As we enter the period when all 186 legislative seats are up for election, as well as the governor's seat, FMM is redoubling its efforts to educate policymakers about the differences between fact and fantasy.

CAN YOU GUESS WHICH OF THESE TWO PHOTOS APPEARS ON THE "CAREER                                  OPPORTUNITIES" RECRUITING PAGE OF UNUM'S WEBSITE?

CAN YOU GUESS WHICH OF THESE TWO PHOTOS APPEARS ON THE "CAREER                                  OPPORTUNITIES" RECRUITING PAGE OF UNUM'S WEBSITE?

http://www.unumgroup.com/Careers

http://www.unumgroup.com/Careers

Looking Ahead

The state is forming a "commission" that will study the long overdue balancing of Big Wind's impacts and benefits.  The governor is concerned about "tourism" but it is more than tourism.  The very Maine brand that is so integral to our economy is at stake if we allow southern New England to convert us into a tragic power plantation with no climate or economic benefits. Hundreds of businesses rely on the integrity of the Maine brand, and they buy and sell it daily.  To defile that brand for an unnecessary and ineffective Wind Lobby is utter folly. 

Maine brands.jpg

 

Please stay tuned as the legislative session turns into the home stretch, and as politicians hit the streets looking for votes.  FMM will continue to remind Maine about wind energy's high impacts and low benefits. 

Maine Puts The Brakes on Big Wind

Today the State of Maine issued an order calling for a re-examination of Maine's embattled "Wind Act" and its "expedited" permitting for destructive industrial wind projects.

cheers.jpg

The order includes a de facto moratorium on permits for new wind projects until a commission can make recommendations about the Wind Act, now that Maine has ten years of experience with a land use of unprecedented scope and scale: industrial wind. 

Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) had urged the Governor to act decisively before a Massachusetts selection committee announces preliminary winners in a historic Clean Energy RFP.  That committee has said it intends to make those announcements tomorrow, January 25.  There are some very attractive bids in that RFP, but there are also several ominous bids that propose massive Maine wind buildup.   

"The original Wind Task Force a decade ago embarked with untested assumptions, false presumptions, and unrealistic expectations," said FMM Chairman Rand Stowell.*   The Wind Act, one of Maine's most sweeping laws ever,  sped in only a few days through the legislature without debate and without a single dissenting vote (see graphic below). 

Stowell further said "It was 'garbage in - garbage out' and we've been fighting to overturn a horrible law ever since."

"Most of us thought wind energy was a great idea because it was going to get us off oil, save the planet, improve the economy...it was a 'can't miss' until we learned that none of that was going to come to fruition because of wind energy.  After ten years of struggling under an ill-conceived law, now Maine knows the massive impacts are just too high a price to pay for such minimal benefits. The Expedited Wind Law been Maine's worst policy boondoggle since Car Test. This commission is a good chance for Maine to correct its mistakes."

The original Wind Act called for 3000 megawatts of installed wind in Maine.  After achieving a third of that goal, Stowell said "Mainers now realize that there is simply no more room for industrial wind in Vacationland.  We have had enough.  Over 100 Maine communities have learned the facts and then taken action to protect against wind encroachment, so today's order recognizing Maine's frustration comes as no surprise. Because Maine is already doing its part to combat climate change, there is no rationale for destroying our Quality of Place." 

* For a stunning 3-part journalistic investigation into how The Wind Act was rushed into law, see:

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-power-bandwagon-hits-bumps-in-the-road-3/

https://pinetreewatch.org/wind-swept-task-force-set-the-rules/

https://pinetreewatch.org/flaws-in-bill-like-skating-with-dull-skates/

The hasty path of the Wind Law

The hasty path of the Wind Law

PL661Timeline.jpg

Don't tread on ME

Maine is preparing for battle, as some historic decisions are being made this month in Boston. The Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP has attracted numerous proposals to develop industrial scale wind energy that could more than triple the installed wind capacity now in Maine. 

Maine tore down the billboards 40 years ago  (Press Herald photo)

Maine tore down the billboards 40 years ago  (Press Herald photo)

Nobody appreciates a clean environment like Mainers, who banned billboards in 1977.  But when it comes to hosting wind plantations, we have had enough. A decade ago Maine generally viewed wind energy as necessary, useful and trendy. But having witnessed wind’s colossal impacts and miniscule benefits, over 100 Maine communities have taken action to thwart wind development.

Boston is the 12th ranked city in the nation with 49 skyscrapers over 100 meters tall. Shockingly, our pristine Maine woods are host to almost ten times that many skyscrapers. On mountains!  Maine has reached its limit, with almost 1000 megawatts of installed wind energy. If the pending Boston decision triples that amount it will do grave harm to the New England Electric grid, to our regional economy, and to Maine’s environment. 

Tourism is one of Maine’s largest industries. Maine tourism depends on our brand: the outdoors.  According to the Maine Office of Tourism’s latest figures, 41% of overnight visitors come primarily for the lakes & mountains/highlands/Downeast. That is more than the visitors who flock to trendy Portland and Maine’s spectacular beaches combined.  Moreover, a whopping 88% of overnight visitors came to Maine for touring/sightseeing/active outdoor activities.  This is 28% higher than people who came for the food scene.  Tragically, these special areas and the outdoor activities within them are directly threatened by industrial scale wind development.  

Massachusetts is Maine’s biggest tourism customer. So it is clear that Massachusetts citizens appreciate Maine’s fabled Quality of Place, which the Brookings Institution called our “calling card, brand, and truest source of prosperity.” Ironically, the state that apparently loves Maine most is now poised to destroy that which makes Maine such an attractive outdoor destination.

Everbody has responsibility for the environment. Maine is doing its part. The Bay State’s population is five times greater than Maine’s. Yet Maine has five times more wind turbines. While wind developers won’t even bother trying to locate in Massachusetts, they readily industrialize Maine’s iconic White Mountain National Forest, our Mahoosuc Range, the High Peaks Region, the Boundary Mountains, the Appalachian Trail, Katahdin and other priceless natural resources. 

Maine has the highest Renewable Portfolio Standard of the 50 states.  Maine CO2 emissions from electricity rank third least in the nation, contributing less than 2% of total New England CO2 emissions.  Maine has facilitated industrial wind speculators to bill ratepayers for over a billion dollars worth of massive wind infrastructure, not including the billions more in accompanying transmission costs and capacity payments.  Maine is doing its part.  

While high energy costs have exacerbated Maine’s loss of industry, Massachusetts has persistently isolated us from nearby plentiful and inexpensive natural gas supplies. It once seemed smart spending money on wind infrastructure instead of gas infrastucture. But now we know that wind contributes only a tiny fraction of our electricity, while our neglect of critical gas investment is forcing an expensive and dirty return to oil and coal.

Massachusetts should do its part: allow crucial gas pipeline upgrades, host its own wind turbines, and buy quality renewables from Quebec.

There are some good and necessary proposals in the RFP.  The selection committee must make sound policy decisions, rather than chase old trends. 

Recently the New England grid operator wrote:

"More than 4,200 megawatts (MW)…will have shut down between 2012 and 2020 and is being replaced primarily by new natural-gas-fired plants…Over 5,500 MW of additional oil and coal capacity are at risk for retirement in coming years, and uncertainty surrounds the future of 3,300 MW from the region’s remaining nuclear plants… These retiring resources are likely to be replaced by more natural-gas-fired resources, thereby exacerbating the region’s already constrained natural gas transportation system…"

Thousands of low-performing wind turbines cannot fill this growing void in baseload / peakload power. Only the High Voltage Direct Current transmission projects from Quebec (one of them in Maine) can provide the dispatchable, clean, affordable energy that New England wants and needs. 

Mainers will oppose wind projects at every stage of permitting.

Feel Good Massachusetts Policy - Bad for Maine

 

This link  https://www.iso-ne.com/isoexpress/  shows in graphs and charts what feel-good energy policy looks like on a frigid winter day. 

Plug.jpg

 

We already “got off of oil” largely by switching to cleaner natural gas. 30 years ago oil accounted for over a quarter of Maine's electricity generation.  Even as we closed Maine Yankee we started to get off oil, and by 2012 oil generated less than half a percent of Maine electricity.  Natural gas generation climbed to 60 percent. 

The real time pie chart shows how on cold winter days we are consistently using oil for at least 25 percent of generation. Mothballed coal plants are also firing up, quadrupling their normal generation. And New England spot prices leap tenfold from 30 dollars to 300/MWH! 

Today’s wholesale electricity spot price in Western New York is $33/MWH or less and Hydro Quebec at the New York border is selling for $10.80 MWH. 

Gas is plentiful just past New England. While our neighbors pay some of the lowest worldwide prices for natural gas, New England pays some of the highest. Our Algonquin Citygate Spot price for gas is $20/MMBTU today which is down from $30/MMBTU yesterday. The Henry Hub Spot price for the rest of the country is only $3/MMBTU today. Our exorbitant cost is all about the pipelines. No pipelines = No Gas.

Because gas is being used heavily by sectors other than electricity, like heating and manufacturing, the gas fired power plants cannot answer the call, necessitating our reliance on coal and oil plants that we ratepayers also pay billions annually just to sit ready. 

Why can’t we get enough natural gas? Because Massachusetts feels good about ruining Maine Mountains with billions of dollars worth of low performing wind turbines (see chart: generating one percent today) while simultaneously refusing to allow expansion of crucial gas pipelines in the Bay State. All this while Maine policy makers apparently embrace our becoming a wind plantation. 

Bad for the ratepayers, clean air, the economy and the environment. But the nimbys in Massachusetts feel good.

How Numbers Affect Visual Impact

Friends of Maine’s Mountains, via an amendment to LD 901, wants to set a predictable visual impact standard instead of spot-zoning, instead of cherry picking favorite places. The Wind Lobby has its hair on fire, despite the fact that every wind application except one (Mars Hill) has submitted a Visual Impact Assessment during its permitting process. 

But over the years we've learned that how people see wind development depends a lot on...

                            ...how people see wind development. 

If people look at a wind turbine and BELIEVE that it is saving the planet, they think the turbine is beautiful.  But it people KNOW that the turbine is merely a useless and unnecessary feel-good scam to line the pockets of speculators, their VIEW of Big Wind is changed.  If wind energy actually did some good, it would be easier to accept. 

Electricity generation is a virtual non-factor in Maine's GHG output but we are destroying our landscapes to benefit foreign corporations building wind and transmission all because of this virtual non-factor. See chart below:

By 2011, Maine electricity generation by oil had fallen to under one half of one percent of all Maine electricity generation.  

In Maine, one of the top three cleanest electricity states in America, transportation emits FIVE+ times more CO2 than electricity. Yet in less than a decade Maine has decided to throw $2 billion (not counting billions more for transmission, capacity payments, etc.) at unsustainable, redundant and unnecessary wind projects that contribute on most days 1% to 3% to the ISO-NE electricity mix, even as dirty plants continue to burn fuel and get paid handsomely for being ready.  

But what has Maine done about the real problem, transportation emissions?  

We raised the speed limit.  

It is noteworthy that both the Maine Wind Law and the more recent law that raised the speed limits on I-95 were enacted by the Maine House & Senate unanimouslywithout debate, and without any roll call votes.  

Prolific wind spending is the reason why your light bills have not gone down even as ISO-NE wholesale rates have dropped in a few years by more than double. (See spread sheet here.)

Numbers are actually relevant to visual impact assessment: the more Mainers learn about Big Wind’s big impacts and tiny benefits, the less tolerant we are of looking at it.  

See those poll results here.

Pick up the phone. Urge your legislators on the Environment Committee and Utilities Committee to update the visual impact submissions for wind projects.

Maine's Wind Energy Zone Has Shrunk

Congratulations Maine!  

Two years ago there were 3.4 million acres of Unorganized Territory (UT) in the Expedited Wind Development Area (EA).  Thanks to grass roots citizen action, a law was passed and a process was established allowing people in the UT one chance to "opt out" of the EA. 

Now, assuming that one last appeal (Milton Township) goes our way,  there are only 2.6 million acres in the EA.  

Yes, approximately three quarters of a million acres were removed from the EA, enhancing our efforts to protect Maine's most beautiful places from Big Wind's high negative impacts / low positive benefits.

Wind developers might still want to build there, but now opponents stand a fighting chance.  

Milton Township successfully opted out, but a Pennsylvania wind developer challenged the petition. The wind developer has publicly stated that his company will abandon its plans for a wind project if Milton succeeds at opting out! 

If you can help these last petitioners with legal costs in their their Supreme Court appeal, we can make it a complete sweep: zero opt out reversals by Big Wind.    

Donate now to help pay the Milton legal fees:    

CLICK HERE      

....and specify "Milton Fund"

See the new map below, and click HERE for a summary. 

Ask at Town Meeting: Where is our wind ordinance?

Most Maine cities and towns use zoning, sometimes called a land use ordinance, to help them manage what is important in the community. Zoning can cover just about any land use: barking dogs, houselots, signs, parking… 

In recent years a new land use has captured the attention of municipal governments from Portland to Presque Isle: wind energy. While the Maine Department of Environmental Protection issues permits for wind projects, the state’s standards and protections are weak. But once a wind project permit is granted, you cannot protect yourself.

If your town has not prepared to deal with wind energy, FMM strongly suggests that you do it before a wind developer arrives seeking to build a massive project, with multiple towers as tall as Boston’s downtown skyscrapers. Communities that were not proactive on wind zoning have gone through hell when Big Wind suddenly came to town, pitting neighbor against neighbor, driving deep wedges and dividing communities. Big Wind is a dirty, ugly business that has driven Maine people from their homes, ruined property values, and decimated communities. 

It’s much better to plan.

Since it’s now town meeting season, why not take the initiative right now? Contact your local officials and let them know you want to be prepared. Show up at town meeting and make it an issue.

Good news: there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. Dozens of Maine communities have adopted a wind ordinance. Some simply wrote their own, others used a bare-bones template provided by the State Planning Office. (That is a good starting point, but no town should adopt the state's version as-is.) Some of the best written wind ordinances are in little towns like Sumner, Thorndike, Phillips and Buckfield. See the list HERE, many with live links to the actual ordinance, or relevant news stories.

Many of the early-adopting towns called “timeout” with a six month moratorium on accepting wind project applications. During the six month moratorium they learned about Big Wind’s land use implications and they drafted an ordinance suitable for their community. Now many communities are simply doing a cut and paste of these best ordinances from other towns. 

Momentum is growing, and not just in towns and cities that are capable of writing ordinances. Last year almost 50 communities in Maine’s Unorganized Territory -- where there is no municipal government – chose to be removed from a state zoning area where wind projects are easily permitted. See that list HERE.

Some of the major issues towns need to consider when writing a wind ordinance:

  • Noise – Wind turbines and homes never mix well. If you think a mile setback is a long distance for infrasound to travel, think again. 
  • Visual Impact -  Most people think favorably of wind turbines until they learn that they are very high impact and very low benefit.
  • Decommissioning -  Wind developers all use LLCs and they all promise the moon. They are in a highly speculative and unsustainable industry that is essentially a house of cards. To guarantee that someone is going to clean up the blight, you must require a performance bond and you must mandate that the landowner is ultimately responsible for decommissioning. These two requirements should be in every wind ordinance. 

So go to town meeting. Inform your neighbors. Demand a wind ordinance. Protect your community. FMM will gladly consult with any Maine community wishing to pursue a wind ordinance. 

Unsustainable costs of useless wind power in Maine

The wind in Maine’s mountains blows enough only to keep a wind turbine operating about 25% of the time. And yet as this article by Tux Turkel makes clear, it will take hundreds of millions, probably billions, to raze enough of Maine’s wild places and build the snarl of transmission lines that this totally unreliable power source demands. That's IN ADDITION TO the $1 billion plus we've already spent here in Maine to upgrade transmission lines for wind developers!

Maine people will pay for the redundant generation and the unnecessary transmission build-up, but the electricity will be shipped to the south.

While paying for wasteful infrastructure is bad enough, we will pay extra for the irreversible impact on Maine’s tourism industry. We have been investing heavily to attract visitors to the state, but our policy makers have greased the skids for developers who propose to ruin the very natural beauty that attracts visitors here in the first place. All to accommodate a power source that does no good here in Maine.

Do you remember the last time your electricity bill went down? By subsidizing wind developers, you rest assured it will only go up. Read the article in the Press Herald, and ask yourself if this makes any sense.

Record Hill Wind Project: A Big Loser for Yale

Additional Threats From Connecticut Looming

Record Hill finally filed its 2nd quarter 2016 report with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week.

The project, constructed with a taxpayer subsidy of more than $100 million, and sold to ratepayers by Angus King before he became a US Senator, was underwritten by Yale University, in its "quest to be to be the world's greenest university."

The Connecticut school boasts that it bought Record Hill to "provide a meaningful economic return to the Endowment while helping the University achieve its sustainability goals."

Aren't those Ivy League folks supposed to be smart?

For the quarter, the Byron & Roxbury, Maine project's average energy price was a paltry $21.11 per megawatt/hour. (That's 2.1 cents per kilowatt/hour.)

Its capacity Factor was merely 24.4%. (This effectively means that three days out of four it doesn't work.)

Total Energy and Capacity Revenues (it's a travesty that we waste capacity payments on wind projects) were $740,000 for the quarter.

This is a serious cash shortfall, considering Record Hill's estimated quarterly debt service is $1.8 million.

Could be interesting when Yale’s investment committee reviews the project’s "sustainability" and "meaningful economic return."

Residents around Ellis Pond, Appalachian Trail hikers, as well as motorists on Maine Scenic Byway Route 17 between Rumford and Rangely, are stuck with a massive industrial eyesore that does nothing to save the planet.

Meanwhile, Connecticut continues plotting to ruin many more Maine mountains as the "Clean Energy RFP" progresses. Rest assured that the bidders in the RFP cannot survive if they win government-mandated contracts at 2 or 3 cents per kilowatt/hour. 

Not unlike those well-educated people at Yale, perhaps we have not learned our lessons. Nobody will know what a bad deal the RFP is until AFTER the contracts have been signed: "Final results of the RFP will be announced to the public when executed contracts are filed for regulatory review." 

Last week Friends of Maine's Mountains had a meeting with Governor Paul LePage to warn him about the Clean Energy RFP's potential impact on Maine's economy and environment.  Over 2000 megawatts of Maine-based wind development has been bid in the RFP.  In the meeting we urged Maine's Chief Executive to use his influence in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to discourage overpriced contracts that could be mandated by the public utilities commissions in those RFP states.

FMM will continue to monitor the process, and we will oppose all Maine wind projects that eventually emerge from the RFP. 

 

 

SunEdison Bankruptcy Update

September is a big month for SunEdison, TerraForm Power, and TerraForm Global (SUNE, TERP, GLBL) as the lawyers continue to wrangle over what remains of last year's energy darling.

SUNE has received offers and/or locked up “Stalking Horse” agreements for over 90% of its pipeline and portfolio. Auctions are scheduled for both the Stalking Horse bids and SUNE’s ownership of TERP and GLBL (including Class B shares with 10 to 1 voting rights superiority) before the end of the month. SUNE’s advisors state that the awarding of winning bids will take only 3-4 business days following the auctions. D.E. Shaw, Madison Dearborn, Appaloosa Capital (in partnership with Canadian Brookfield Asset Management) and an unnamed Chinese energy firm are said to have the most interest in acquiring the subs. All sales of no-bid project assets previously approved by the Court are expected to close during September.

To date, the aggregate amount of offers on the table for SUNE’s portfolio is less than $500 million. However, two motions to the Court this week for sales indicate that SUNE gets little or nothing from the sales. A Texas wind project (27 MW) reported on “the books” with an asset value of $31.4 million was offered $13 million in cash but $11 million goes to pay off a Letter of Credit which was drawn on due to failure to meet project construction deadlines and the remaining $2 million goes to the project's vendors. A UK deal on the books with an asset value of $14.3 million was offered $9 million but $6 million goes to pay off non-recourse debt and $3 million goes to pay off project vendors.

The sales of Maine's Oakfield Wind (operating) and Bingham Wind (under construction) to Terra Nova (a JP Morgan fund) apparently did not go off without a hitch. SUNE/First Wind boasted prior to the construction start of both projects that they had lined up debt and equity for the full $787 million costs. Terra Nova reported in December 2015 that they had purchased the equity in both projects for a total of $202 million. However, SUNE is reporting in its June Monthly Operating Report to the Court that it still has a gross investment in Oakfield of $141.3 million ($72.5 million net with $68.8 million written off) and a net investment of $82.5 million in Bingham.

This data indicates that SUNE received far less equity investment than it had projected, and/or the cost of long term debt was far more expensive than their expectations (lowering the principal amount of the non-recourse loan), so SUNE was forced to provide the balance of investment (more project debt) with its own funds. The write-off on Oakfield shows that there was insufficient projected cash flow to cover the needs of the non-recourse debt lender and equity so SUNE was forced to take a below-market interest rate over the term of the PPA below its funding cost.

The subs are struggling and had to renegotiate their indentures last week due to default for no audited financials. They have until early December to comply. TERP ($1.2 billion loan outstanding) had to pay an upfront fee of $6.25 million, and saw its interest rate permanently increased 50 basis points to 6.375%.  They also saw an added on penalty rate of 300 basis points to 9.375% until the financials are filed but, in any case, not for less than a minimum 90 days. TERP is selling its UK portfolio and looking to sell other poor performing projects in its portfolio. This could include Stetson 2 in Maine and Cohocton in New York. Both projects showed energy rates on FERC filings for 2Q2016 of less than $22/MWH.

GLBL ($810 million loan outstanding) saw its interest rate increase from 9.75% by 400 basis points to 13.75% until it complies with providing up to date audited financial statements. 

The current “junk bond” market rate is around 7% - 8%. Given the rates TERP and GLBL are now paying, if their auctions fail to attract new deep pocket owners capable of turning the two companies around, they too may find themselves in bankruptcy or liquidation in the near future.

The Boards of both TERP and GLBL made firm offers last week to hire away two senior SUNE employees each (a CFO and COO) upon their expected departure from SUNE. There will most likely be a mass exodus of experienced employees during Sep/Oct if it hasn’t started already.

NOTES

Since SUNE filed Chapter 11 with the Court on April 21st there have been a total of 1,119 filings to date. Letters from shareholders are entertaining. There are some who insist on telling the Judge that he must appoint an Equity Holders Committee because they fund the renewables companies that will help stop climate change and save the planet.  The Message Boards on E*TRADE show that many SUNE stockholders still think that it is a good time to buy SUNE stock (trading at 5 cents per share) since they believe it will be resurrected by a white knight buyer or new fortunes in sales of unreported assets. The reorganization legal expenses are running about $40 million per month. The chances of this bankruptcy going Ch. 7 are remote. SUNE has managed to attach provisions in its PSAs for projects that would pay them bonuses 1, 2 or 3 years after a project is completed if a project outperforms minimum thresholds. While the amounts are small it is enough that payments would require an ongoing trustee to manage the recoveries. 

Bingham at last report was on schedule to go commercial sometime 4Q2016. 

Wholesale Electricity Prices Fall, But Light Bills Rise

CLICK HERE for the latest chart showing wholesale electricity prices in the ISO-New England.  

THE NUMBERS ARE AMAZING.

Compare the month-over-month prices and you'll see that by year-end 2016 we could save about 4 BILLION DOLLARS on "energy" costs compared to what we spent a few years ago.  

This huge savings is primarily due to low and stable natural gas prices.  Another factor is conservation/efficiency: the chart shows that we are using less power.  Last, we have made some grid management decisions to help reduce the horrific peak pricing on the hottest and coldest days of the year. 

For comparison, 4 BILLION DOLLARS per year is more money than the State of Maine collects via both the sales tax and the income tax!  It's a lot of money, money that consumers should have in our pockets to boost the economy.  

So why is your light bill still high?

Energy policy.  It matters a lot.  

While New England is starting to come to its senses (procuring and enhancing sustainable base load sources like hydro and gas) we are also making some foolish choices (blowing over 2 BILLION DOLLARS on wind projects that don't scratch the grid's surface, closing reliable power plants with no reliable generators available to replace them).

Our light bills include many charges besides the (now low) cost of energy. For instance, many wind projects, through government-mandated long term contracts, force consumers to pay triple and quadruple the market price. Had the Statoil project been built, we would have paid EIGHT TIMES the market rate for the electricity, thanks to the contract forced upon us by our own Public Utilities Commission!

Another downside to wind proliferation is the cost of all those transmission upgrades that we didn't need but for all the wind lobbyists who convinced regulators that the grid was outdated, and that wind energy would be worth the massive expense (they called it "investment"). If useless and unnecessary wind projects are the heist, then excessive transmission upgrades are the getaway car. 

And "capacity payments" to the valuable power plants have quadrupled in just a few short years, because we need those power plants to keep our lights on, but they need to be paid to stay in business. 

So thank you for staying informed and involved as Maine and our neighbors make critical policy decisions about our environment and our economy.  The mountains deserve our protection.  So do our wallets.  We at FMM will continue to educate the public about these important policies.

If you haven't donated to FMM yet this year, please CLICK HERE today! 

 

2 Crucial Public Comment Opportunities

Deadlines Coming Fast

DEP Rulemaking on Wind Energy

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is asking for preliminary comments on a draft Wind Rule that would improve standards for visual impact, decommissioning, and more. Your comments on this draft can help the DEP Staff write a solid Rule.  Deadline Monday, August 8 at 5:00 PM.

In the wake of the SunEdison bankruptcy, earlier this year FMM urged the DEP to provide assurances that the public will be protected if a wind developer fails to meet its obligations. We are pleased with the DEP's reaction, and we urge YOU to take advantage of this important opportunity.  Note:  this is a draft Rule. DEP will take your comments under advisement as they prepare the eventual Rule language.  

To read the draft Rule and to submit your comment, CLICK HERE

To Read the comments that FMM has submitted, CLICK HERE 

--------

LUPC Hearing on Milton Opt-Out

For the first six months of this year, we invested lots of time and resources helping Mainers take advantage of the opportunity to opt-out of the Expedited Wind Area.  Dedicated volunteers in almost 50 Maine communities submitted Opt-Out petitions to the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC).  

Two of those petitions are being challenged by wind interests, and your support will help.

Milton Township is up first, and the public hearing will be Wednesday in Bethel. A wind developer wants Milton to remain Expedited and the residents want out. LUPC will decide.  Public comment will be accepted at the hearing in two sessions (afternoon & evening). Written comment may be submitted until August 22.

The proceeding boils down to the Commission answering two questions:  

1. Does Milton's removal from the Expedited Area have an unreasonable adverse effect on Maine's ability to achieve its "goals" for installed wind capacity?

2. Is the removal consistent with the principles and goals of LUPC's Comprehensive Land Use Plan?

The obvious and correct answers are NO and YES.  Naturally the Wind Lobby is arguing YES and NO.  

So please submit your comment now.  

The background info is HERE at the LUPC web site.

The public hearing particulars and commenting instructions are HERE

 

PAY UP, SUCKER --- electricity increases next June

Get ready to pay A LOT MORE for your electricity.

Get ready to pay A LOT MORE for your electricity.

If you have deep pockets, you probably applaud the Maine Legislature for artificially propping up the wind industry in this state. If you don’t have deep pockets, be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

Take a look at your most recent electric bill. Next year you’ll pay an increased per-kilowatt rate, according to Tux Turkel, the well-informed utilities writer for the MaineToday newspapers. In fact, Turkel wrote on Saturday, July 30 that you can also expect “your electric bill to go up for the next few years.” (Emphasis added.

As we said a few months ago, the wholesale cost of generating electricity is falling through the floor.  Yet our electric rates continue to climb, because your light bill includes a LOT more than the simple cost of “generating electricity.”  Don’t worry if you’re totally confused by Turkel’s explanation. The convoluted  process for setting electric rates is incomprehensible to the average Maine ratepayer. If you have a headache after reading the article, you’re not alone. However, one thing is clear, according to Turkel. “Clean energy also is benefiting from the spike in capacity payments.”

Capacity Payments to necessary New England power plants in March 2017 will triple from the average $1 billion per year historically over the last decade to $3 billion for 2017. That is a penalty on Maine ratepayers of about $160 million. And it's about the equivalent of raising the Maine sales tax by a penny. Our Capacity Payments will increase even more the following year (2018) to $4 billion. $4 billion amounts to more than one half of the entire New England energy market value! A few years ago, capacity payments were just one tenth of the energy market value. That’s our money, and it’s being extracted from our economy, and it’s going up in smoke as we continue to build redundant, unnecessary, and useless electricity generation.

But we pay for more than just generation.  For reasons that we have explained repeatedly, building wind turbines in our state’s most scenic areas does absolutely nothing to reduce Maine’s use of fossil fuels. However, building the transmission lines that enable wind speculators to erect turbines on Maine mountains, and thus to generate electricity that actually goes to consumers in Connecticut and Massachusetts, gives license to developers to cash in on lavish ratepayer and taxpayer subsidies. (That’s your pocketbook.) The Maine Legislature has specifically encouraged this scheme. And now, it’s all about to have another very real and very direct impact on the size of your light bill. As we have predicted for a very long time, Maine people are REALLY going to pay --- through the nose --- for the privilege of providing the states to our south with insignificant amounts of “clean” energy. Those folks will feel good about themselves, falsely believing they’re saving the planet, while Maine people will pay the very steep price --- literally.

Get ready for next June, and start saving your pennies. Your discretionary income is going down, thanks to bad policies.

SunEdison crashes and burns, declares bankruptcy

Financial implosion likely to hasten exit of wind capital from Maine

Statement by Chris O’Neil, director of public policy, Friends of Maine’s Mountains, April 21, 2016

“Sun Edison’s operating wind projects own very lucrative long-term contracts that are sometimes triple and quadruple wholesale market rates. While we will enjoy relief from SunEdison’s ruthless march on Maine, plenty of scavengers are just waiting to swoop in and pick at the carcass. We’ll be watching. (statement continued, BELOW.)

Sun-Edison filed for bankruptcy protection it was announced today, April 21, 2016

Sun-Edison filed for bankruptcy protection it was announced today, April 21, 2016

“Nevertheless, this financial collapse occurs just as the Tri-State RFP is about to make important decisions on bids from Maine projects. But today’s news shows that at least in Maine, new wind projects can't compete given the current energy market conditions. Their business models are simply unsustainable, and that’s why they’re imploding.”

“As we noted yesterday in a press release about the opt-out petition process, those who are determined to protect Mine’s invaluable wilderness assets are fighting back, and we’re winning key battles. Jeremy Payne has noted that wind capital is now moving out of Maine. He’s right, and now he can expect to see that process to accelerate.”

###

EXCERPT, Friends of Maine’s press release, February 25, 2016:

Uncertainty injected into southern New England Clean Energy RFP decisions

Major disadvantage for ME companies in regional RFP process

Growing opposition in Maine, and its confirmed effectiveness at deterring wind development, could have a major impact on a consortium of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Last fall, the consortium issued a Request for Proposals to deliver at least 5,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy to those states, with proposals due in late January of 2016. The initial results of the RFP made headlines all over New England, when the consortium announced that it had received 51 separate proposals from developers.

On January 29, utilities Emera Maine and Central Maine Power announced that they had submitted a joint transmission proposal in response to the RFP. O’Neil said that particular news defined the next new battleground for wind turbine opponents in Maine. He described wind development in Maine as “the heist,” and costly new transmission systems as “the getaway car.”

“Our strategy is no secret. We want states to our south to know that the regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wilderness areas are enormous, and hopefully insurmountable. They will encounter an especially burdensome process here. In fact, it’s probably in their best interest that they rule out Maine wind right now, and instead pursue viable solutions to the challenges facing the grid and the environment.”

###

Press Release, Friends of Maine's Mountains, April 20, 2016

Wind opponents: market uncertainty "exactly what we're trying to achieve"

(Weld, Maine) One of Maine’s largest private land owners has cited the “uncertainty” of wind power development in Maine as one of the primary reasons it has withdrawn its request to challenge Molunkus Township’s petition to remove itself from the state’s “expedited permitting area.”

Attorney Dean Beaupain, representing Lakeville Shores, Inc., notified the Maine Land Use Planning Commission of the change of heart in a letter dated April 19th. Lakeville Shores is owned by H.C. Haynes, Inc.

The defeat comes just weeks after the head of the Maine Renewable Energy Association said that wind opposition in Maine “has caused some companies to push pause on their development plans and…has caused some companies to re-deploy their capital outside of Maine.”

“Look what twenty-five ordinary Maine citizens were able to accomplish by standing up for their rights,” said Chris O’Neil, director of public affairs for Friends of Maine’s Mountains. “Big Wind lobbyists were able to snuff out the rights of Maine citizens in 2008, but the pendulum is now swinging back the other way. The folks in Molunkus have added more uncertainty to the financial prospects of big wind companies in Maine, exactly what we are trying to achieve.”

Twenty-five residents of Molunkus Township were the first to submit an “opt-out” petition to the State of Maine. Land owners like Haynes have the right to contest the petitions, but now that the company has dropped opposition, any future wind development in Molunkus must include citizen input.

For several months, wind opponents have been fanning out across the state, explaining to residents how to gather petition signatures and "opt out" of Maine's Expedited Permitting Area for Wind Energy, also called the Expedited Area (EA). The opportunity ends June 30.

Wind projects proposed in these EA are currently not required to win local zoning approval. The Unorganized Territory (where most wind development is targeted) comprises the majority of the state’s land mass, but is home to just one percent of the population. The EA was shrewdly created in a little-understood maneuver of the Maine Legislature, when it unanimously passed the Wind Energy Act in 2008. Lawmakers, who at the time believed wind energy to be useful and necessary, wanted to make it quicker and easier to build industrial wind turbines in rural Maine. The net result was that a tiny percentage of Maine people were stripped of land use rights and protections that citizens in the rest of the state enjoy. More than 50 Maine towns in other parts of the state have adopted protective wind energy ordinances since 2008, but residents of the “expedited area” in the Unorganized Territory lost the ability to do the same, the moment Governor John Baldacci signed the Wind Energy Act into law.

Since January 1st, dozens of opt-out petitions have been turned in to state officials.

O’Neil said the exodus of wind spending that Payne bemoaned is a major victory for groups like FMM, who argue that erecting wind turbines is a waste of taxpayer and ratepayer money that will hurt Maine’s economy by raising electricity costs while impeding tourism, Maine's biggest industry. The state is a well-known vacation destination for skiers, boaters, hunters, hikers, fishing enthusiasts and people seeking solitude, away from more urban and industrialized areas.

“Our strategy is no secret, as demonstrated by the people of Molunkus. We want the shareholders of the huge wind corporations to know about the enormously expensive regulatory and legal hurdles they face as they try to rob Maine of its famous wild areas. I hope all the wind company CEOs read that letter from Mr. Baupain and get the message.”

To read the uplifting concession letter from Attorney Beaupain, CLICK HERE.

###