When it comes to the cost of utilities, Mainers can’t catch a break.

This week, the Maine Public Utilities Commission announced new rate hikes to subsidize Gov. Janet Mills’ green energy transition. The new rates will have consumers paying an extra $15.50 a month to keep the lights on. With many Mainers already stocking up on winter heating oil – which remains priced at $3.00 to $4.90 per gallon – and interest rates reaching the highest levels in a decade, the rate hikes could not have come at a worse time for Maine ratepayers.

Maine’s climate action plan, “Maine Won’t Wait,” earmarks billions of dollars for clean transportation, clean energy, climate resilience and other schemes like developing “climate-friendly building materials.” This most recent rate increase will go directly to pay the $179.3 million owed to solar developers – a 47% increase from the previous year.

Though companies like Central Maine Power blame their increasing rates on market volatility, the primary factor of these high rates is the governor’s requirement that utilities purchase power from solar projects at a fixed rate. The MPUC blamed a previous price hike in 2022 on fossil fuel market volatility, despite the government’s price fixes being in their second year under a Democratic majority. Even more telling, energy developers, manufacturers, renewable energy companies and the Maine Renewable Energy Association all opposed the latest rate hike, pointing out to regulators that the latest rate increase would be unfair to ratepayers.

To reach Gov. Mills’ goals of carbon neutrality by 2045, energy companies need to target the 91% of greenhouse gas emissions that come from energy consumption in Maine. That means Mainers will pay more for basic household functions like staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Similar climate schemes to attract more clean-energy jobs to the state by developing offshore wind power alongside inefficient solar power – despite opposition from the state’s well-known lobster industry – show that ratepayers will be the ones hurt the most from these policies. It’s telling that the only parties in support of this week’s rate hike are government agencies like the Office of the Public Advocate and Efficiency Maine Trust, the latter of which exists to “lower the cost and environmental impacts of energy in Maine.”

Instead of subsidizing solar power and burying ratepayers under crushing costs, Maine needs cheap, reliable sources of energy. The United States’ emissions peaked at 6,000 million metric tons of CO2 almost 20 years ago. Residential and commercial emissions are lower than those from electric power, transportation and industrial sectors.

Yet Maine, which is ranked in the bottom 10 states in the U.S. in terms of population and population density, is placing the financial costs of the state’s climate plans on its own residents’ utility bills. Maine’s contribution to national U.S. emissions is minuscule at best. Expecting Mainers to believe that by having the state achieve carbon neutrality, damaging storms will end and the planet will be saved is just not true.

Maine could become carbon-neutral tomorrow and still it would have no impact on worldwide climate change. Sticking Maine ratepayers with a higher bill to achieve a climate goal will not prevent more damaging storms from hitting Maine. Further increasing the cost of living will only drive younger Mainers from the state in search of more affordable places to live with better job opportunities.

When the clean-energy companies oppose rate hikes that will go to paying their own costs, it’s a sign that this rate hike is misguided. If basic utilities continue to significantly add to the cost of living, ratepayers will begin to look for cheaper places to live, to the detriment of Maine and its clean energy development.

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