The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently opened a new docket, 2016-00081, to process refunds to energy intensive manufacturers in Maine out of the fund created by the carbon cap and trade program under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Maine is one of nine New England/Mid-Atlantic states that participate in RGGI. Under the program, CO2 is capped in the participating states and fossil-fuel generators in those states are required to purchase emissions allowances to offset their emissions. In Maine, the money raised from the sale of emissions allowances has been used to fund Efficiency Maine, which promotes energy efficiency for Maine business and residential consumers.

Last month, the Maine Legislature enacted a new law (Ch. 498) that requires the Commission to return a portion of the funds received from Maine’s participation in RGGI to large electricity consumers in the state. Under the new law, the Commission is tasked with distributing $3 million per year over the next three years to large energy consumers. The law was passed over Governor LePage’s veto, who originally proposed that a far greater share of RGGI funds be returned to businesses.

Under the law, “energy intensive manufacturers” as determined by EIA reports within the ISO-NE region may be eligible for refunds. The statute limits refunds to those utility customers that receive electric service at transmission or sub-transmission levels. Additional incentives are available to businesses that use the money to fund energy efficiency upgrades.

The Commission is seeking guidance on multiple questions about how to distribute the refund, including:

  • Which EIA report(s) should the Commission use to determine which businesses are “energy intensive manufacturers.”
  • What other criteria should the Commission use to determine whether a business qualifies as an energy intensive manufacturer.
  • Whether the law excludes Northern Maine businesses (outside of ISO-NE) and/or businesses outside of Maine.
  • The Commission’s role in administering the energy efficiency incentives.

Interested parties should respond to the Commission’s questions in its Notice of Inquiry by June 6, 2016.