AUGUSTA – House Republican Leader Rep. Ken Fredette of Newport introduced a bill aimed at fixing the typo in an energy bill and fully restore funding to Efficiency Maine Trust to the levels the 126th Legislature intended.
The intent of the legislation as expressed by members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee was to grant the PUC the authority to set electricity rates to raise funds for energy efficiency programs, but the total amount could not exceed 4 percent of “total retail electricity transmission and distribution sales” in Maine. The final draft of the bill omitted the second “and” which proved to be a costly error. That omission changed the cap on the funding for Efficiency Maine from roughly $60 million to just over $20 million.
This new bill sponsored by Rep. Fredette would insert the word “and” back in to provide the additional $40 million in funding. This bill also makes a number of other important and necessary changes to the Governor’s Energy Office:
· The Bill fixes and inserts and inserts the word “and” in the budget funding provision.
· Renames the Governor’s Energy Office the Maine Energy Office and places it under the control and supervision of a commissioner, rather than a director.
· $300,000 must be transferred from Efficiency Maine Trust to the Maine Energy Office annually.
· Creates and elevates the Office of Energy Director to a cabinet level position with an accompanying deputy commissioner position. This portion of the bill raises the importance of energy here in Maine, regionally and nationally.
· The executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust would become a nominee of the governor, reviewed by the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee and confirmed by the Maine Senate. This provision is done with the understanding that the Michael Stoddard, the current executive director at Efficiency Maine Trust will be recommended for this position.
· The executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust would have a reporting line to the Maine energy commissioner. This is consistent with many of our boards and commissions.
· Establishes within the Maine Energy Office a position of deputy commissioner to be appointed by the Governor, subject to confirmation by the Senate.
· The executive director of Efficiency Maine Trust would now be nominated by the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology and be subject to confirmation by the full Maine Senate.
“Just to be clear, this fix of the word “and” and the additional provisions of this bill are reasonable and actionable by this Legislature and can be accomplished with great speed if reasonable minds come to the table to solve this issue.” said Rep. Fredette. “What is being proposed in this bill is not a lot to ask. We are asking for greater transparency and accountability of the Efficiency Maine Trust that may have as much as $70 million in unallocated funding at their disposable. This is an amount far greater than ever anticipated when the Efficiency Maine Trust was first created. The components of this bill have the support of the governor.”