For Efficiency Maine, the word ‘and’ made a $38 million difference
Portland Press Herald, March 18, 2015
One missing word in the Legislature’s 2013 energy law will reduce funding for energy efficiency programs for homeowners and businesses across Maine by up to $38 million.
A single omission of “and” in the 11,633-word law led the state Public Utilities Commission to determine Tuesday that funding for the Efficiency Maine Trust will be capped at $22 million for the fiscal year beginning in July 2016, rather than the $60 million the Legislature apparently intended.
The 2-1 PUC vote means less money will be available for a program that homeowners used to buy 2.5 million discounted low-energy light bulbs last year and that 3,000 businesses used to reduce their electricity costs with rebates or subsidies for a wide range of energy-saving improvements.
“It really runs the gamut between the smallest light bulbs to the biggest piece of industrial machinery,” Michael Stoddard, executive director of Efficiency Maine, said of the program.
The energy law authorizes the PUC to set electricity rates to raise money for energy efficiency programs, as long as the amount raised does not exceed 4 percent of “total retail electricity transmission and distribution sales” in Maine. What the law should have said was 4 percent of “total retail electricity and transmission and distribution sales,” according to several members of the Legislature’s energy committee.