The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted 2-1 to cut the state’s funding cap for energy efficiency programs offered through Efficiency Maine from $60 million to $22 million, the Portland Press Herald reports. The decision is being heavily criticized by environmentalists and democrats who say the cut will result in higher electricity bills for Maine homeowners and businesses.
The decision came as part of the PUC’s rulemaking for the 2013 Omnibus Energy Bill, which was passed by the Legislature over Gov. Paul LePage’s veto. Critics of the decision say the bill was designed to increase funding for energy efficiency efforts and that its intent is being subverted.
When the Omnibus Energy bill was passed, legislators from both parties referred to the legislation as being “historic,” saying it would, among other things, increase energy efficiencies, reduce air pollution and improve the natural gas infrastructure.
Efficiency Maine administers energy efficiency programs across the state. It provides rebates on the purchase of high-efficiency lighting and other equipment that helps Maine homeowners and businesses reduce their energy consumption. The independent organization is governed by a board of trustees and is overseen by the PUC.
According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, every dollar spent by Efficiency Maine on energy efficiency yields $7 in net savings for consumers. The Council plans to file a motion with the PUC to have its members reconsider their decision. If that fails, the Council will take its complaint to court.
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