Who we are, what we've done and how we're getting climate right.
IECG is a non-profit incorporated trade association established under Maine law in 1985. IECG is distinct from its members, who manage the trade association through an elected Board of Directors. IECG was there, at the negotiating table, in the hearing rooms, and during the legislative sessions, fighting for positive energy change at each major inflection point in Maine’s recent energy history, including:
Experience Improving Energy Policy
Breaking the Utility Stranglehold on Renewables in the 1980s and 1990s
Until the early 1980's only monopoly electric utilities could generate and sell power. Most utilities blocked renewable generation owned by non-utility businesses and schools from using the grid, instead preferring their own forms of generation. IECG members and then IECG led the fight to force utilities to interconnect third-party generation and buy the power at the same or lower prices as utility-owned generation. Many IECG members then built renewable generation and co-generation, strengthening the Maine grid and helping the environment.
Leading the Battles to Create Competitive Electricity Markets
By the mid-1990s utility control of wholesale and retail electricity markets clearly constrained the innovation and competition that could lower prices and emissions. IECG led a two-year effort to force utilities out of the generation business in Maine and to allow consumers to shop for electricity, including 100% renewable electricity. Restructuring the electric markets to divest utilities of their generation assets lowered electricity prices and stopped exposing ratepayers to utility cost-overruns on expensive, inefficient, or unnecessary generation.
Ending Unfair Utility Preference for Utility-Affiliated Generation
IECG members won a historic interconnection reform case at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Through companion decisions (85 FERC ¶ 61,141; 85 FERC ¶ 61,142), FERC essentially ruled that the grid exists for the benefit of consumers, not utilities or generators. The “minimum interconnection standard” allowed renewable and non-utility generation to interconnect to the grid at reasonable cost and in a reasonable manner, which ultimately lowered electricity costs for consumers.
Joining with Environmental Groups to Create an Effective Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) for Maine
When originally designed, RGGI was flawed, risking extraordinarily high market electricity prices unnecessarily, without the guarantee of sustainable emission reductions. IECG worked with key legislators and two advocacy groups to limit the risks of artificial market imperfections causing price spikes detrimental to consumers. While the expanded RGGI-state compact and rule changes may risk this stability, RGGI has generally operated efficiently. The proceeds of RGGI auctions have been used by Efficiency Maine Trust to incentivize investments in conservation, energy efficiency, and increased use of renewable energy, including by many IECG members.
Reforming Maine’s Energy Efficiency Program to Ensure Independence from Electric Utilities and Efficient Investment of Ratepayer Funds
Electric utilities tend to have an incentive for energy efficiency to fail, thereby increasing consumption of electricity. IECG joined with environmental advocacy groups and efficiency providers to create an independent entity, Efficiency Maine Trust (EMT), to create and administer efficiency programs in Maine. IECG also won general acceptance by EMT of the investment principle “biggest bang for the buck,” including when the principle disfavored efficiency programs for industrials. For example, residential lighting rebates have huge efficiency returns for very little cost, so IECG has strongly supported them. The “biggest bang for the buck” principle should now be applied to reducing GHG emissions, as opposed to energy consumption.
Reducing Emissions and Energy Costs for All Maine Consumers
For decades Maine energy costs have been virtually the highest among the continental United States, driven by extreme reliance on expensive fossil fuels. Through passage of the 2013 “Omnibus Energy Act,” IECG fought to: (1) increase low-cost natural gas supply to Maine as a viable alternative to oil for home heating, manufacturing processes, and electric generation; (2) positively reform EMT; (3) and make lowering energy costs a legal mandate of the Maine Public Utilities Commission. IECG members and other manufacturers who converted from oil to natural gas and made large efficiency investments are proof positive that reducing GHG emissions can coincide with lower energy costs, especially in Maine.
Getting Climate Right: The Big Battle
Getting Climate Right means reducing GHG emissions in effective and efficient ways. In practical terms, IECG believes that transportation and heating must be electrified first as the low hanging fruit, followed by strategically decarbonizing the electric grid with renewable energy, including large-scale solar and onshore and offshore wind. Keeping electricity affordable and reliable are the keystones to electrifying fossil fuel uses at the scale and pace necessary to effectively address climate change.
The State of Maine’s 2019 commitment to intensified climate action provides political impetus for change; the challenge now is to intelligently select specific implementation steps that will be quantitatively effective and economically efficient. These metrics are imperative because moving steadily toward a zero-carbon economy by 2050 will require disciplined private and public investment in unprecedented amounts. Sustaining private, public, and political support for the investment will require continuing demonstration of prudence in policy and action, with little room for error.
Fortunately, Maine’s GHG emission reduction efforts do not start anew. Maine’s four decades of relevant experience in electricity policy and actions in the generation, transmission, and more efficient consumption of electricity teach us lessons that can improve future decisions. Over the years, Maine manufacturers have gained extensive expertise in making complex technology, cost, and efficiency decisions about energy. That expertise is now available to help Maine craft effective and efficient climate policies and actions.
To date, Maine’s climate policies and actions have been primarily directed at the electricity sector, largely ignoring the unregulated heating and transportation sectors that account for most of Maine’s GHG emissions. Inequity aside, continuing this trend is inefficient and ineffective, as the cost for marginal electric sector improvement will be very high, while leaving the largest sources of GHG emissions untouched.
Unnecessary increases in electricity cost, on top of ever-increasing costs of transmitting electricity, have contributed to Maine having the 8th highest electricity prices in the continental United States. These high electricity prices have disadvantaged Maine’s manufacturing sector, including precipitating some facility closures. This unfortunate circumstance provides an additional, compelling reason to Get Climate Right through effective and efficient policies that will target the nearly 80% of Maine’s GHG emissions that are unchecked in the transportation and heating sectors.