On Oct. 1, this paper reported on calls for an additional natural gas pipeline to come into Maine and generate electricity during peak load (“PUC staff: Maine electricity ratepayers shouldn’t be charged for natural gas pipeline expansion”). Of course, it will also generate CO2 and contribute to global warming. Also this month, a Defense Department study concluded that climate change poses an immediate threat to our national security.

Mainers do not have to choose between electricity and national security. There is a third choice that will enable us to maximize both. The residents of the Boothbay region have already done this, in a pilot project which we could replicate all over the state.

Electricity consumers in Boothbay were told that they needed to contribute $18 million to build more electricity transmission lines down the peninsula to meet demand during peak load.

Instead, with a grant from Efficiency Maine and with technical advice from Grid Solar and others, Boothbay businesses and residents reduced their demand by 10 percent over three years, and now they are reducing it even further. They don’t need those new transmission lines.

How did Boothbay reduce demand? By installing “non-transmission alternatives” – solar PV panels, more efficient light bulbs and appliances, battery banks that store excess electricity, blocks of ice called “Ice Bears” that boost air conditioners, and a computer system that turns on existing standby generators in hospitals and government offices during peak demand.

The capital cost of reducing demand in Boothbay was one-third the cost of building new transmission lines, and electricity consumers are now enjoying recurring savings every year.

Boothbay has demonstrated that Mainers do not need to pay for an additional natural gas pipeline to generate enough electricity.

We already generate enough electricity. We can all adapt and install non-transmission alternatives, just like Boothbay. We will save money, and we will save ourselves.

Susan Gilpin


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