Pierce Atwood Hosts Panel Discussion with Kenneth Fletcher on Maine's Energy Challenges

Pierce Atwood LLP hosted Kenneth Fletcher, the Director of the Maine Office of Energy Independence and Security, on Thursday, February 16, for a panel discussion on Maine’s energy challenges.  The panel was held at Pierce Atwood’s Portland office and also included William Hewitt and Partner Jared des Rosiers.  More than 40 representatives from the energy, utility and renewable energy industries attended the event, which is part of Pierce Atwood’s on-going Inside Policy Series. 

Mr. Fletcher opened the discussion by explaining that the LePage Administration is working to lower the price of electricity in Maine.  He stated that if Maine can get electric rates down near the national average then the state would no longer have an impediment in competing with other states to attract new businesses.  Further, he highlighted that Maine is in a good position because the state already has a very strong renewable energy base.  Mr. Fletcher said that the Administration is exploring all possible technologies in order to diversify its energy mix and offer consumers, both residential and business, more choices that work for them.  He went on to say that lowering Mainers’ home heating costs through weatherization is another priority and that residents need more education so that they can understand the benefits of investing in efficiency. 

Mr. des Rosiers cited strategies Maine can pursue to lower electric rates.  He also considered whether the objectives of Maine’s energy policy should include the diversification of its fuel mix, energy conservation and emissions reductions, as investments in efficiency and demand response produce great economic returns and environmental benefits. 

Mr. Hewitt discussed the state of the natural gas commodity markets and the influence of shale gas, noting that while commodity prices are at all time lows,  the challenge in a rural state is distribution.  Further, he explained that low natural gas prices have driven innovative solutions and resulted in new players investing in Maine.  He also questioned where propane fits into Maine’s energy plans, given the likely increase in production resulting from shale gas development.

The event was live-tweeted by Pierce Atwood’s Twitter account, @PierceAtwoodLLP, using the hashtag #MEenergy.