Senate rejects lifting Hydropower cap

This post might not be entirely about the Maine economy, so forgive me in advance.


In the event of you not clicking the link, here’s a brief rundown on what this article covers: Maine Governor Paul LePage submitted a proposal to the Maine State Senate requesting the lifting of the 100-megawatt cap on hydropower as delineated in Maine’s renewable energy portfolio. By a significant margin, the proposal was overthrown.  Those in favor of not approving the lift cite potential harm to the Maine renewable energy market, as well as the lack of transmission lines as an adequate reason to prevent the lifting of the cap. With the Senate’s vote of 26-9 against, even if the bill were to pass in the house, it has little to no chance to pass into law.


Unfortunately, I don’t have a sophisticated education on the subject as I would like, but I don’t think that that limits the validity of my opinion on the matter. What I think is perhaps the biggest problem with such a premise is an almost ideological one. With a specific cap on a renewable energy source, it almost seems as if you are limiting the use or production of a clean energy source, which also seems to favor energy sources that are not as clean. To be a complete and utter cynic, it is also true that big business gas and oil don’t have a cap limit, and are represented by lobbyist groups that renewable sources lack. Yikes, that’s cynical.


Moving on- I disagree with Senator Cleveland, who maintains that the lifting of such a cap would limit the development of renewable sources that Maine posses. First of all, Maine has an enormous potential for specific types of renewable energy that are not individually capable of powering the entire state-notably off shore wind, which has been hitting some difficulties in the implementation process. Furthermore, other forms of renewable and non-renewable sources most times supplement such power in other parts of the world. Denmark is a fantastic example. And while importing clean power from Canada might limit the effectiveness of Maine renewable sources, entire industries can be built around the transportation and distribution of such imported power, creating a facet of the economy that might have not existed otherwise. Currently, half of Maine’s electricity is a result of renewable energy sources, which is prevented from reaching full potential, in part, by legislation and regulations like the 100-megawatt cap. Without the cap, we might import clean energy, but it might also lead to job creation and build an industry around such imported energy. Maine is unique in its availability of clean energy sources, and I think we would be wise to capitalize on any energy source offered from anywhere that promotes a cheaper, cleaner way of life.


Lastly, I don’t particularly care if we purchase clean energy from out of state. Do you think we drill our heating oil here in Maine? Or that we have natural gas reserves? After all, we have granite, not shale. While our own renewable energy industries are growing, what is wrong with purchasing hydropower from Canada? I don’t think that there is anything particularly wrong with that. Another potential reason to forbid the lifting of the cap was the absence of transmission lines. If we treat such a purchase as an investment, as well as the building of the lines, over time the savings will pay for itself.


Essentially, until our renewable energy industry in the state is up and running effectively, I see no problem with purchasing clean hydropower from Canada.