Maine Isn't Waiting
A shortened version of this post ran as a letter to the editor in the Portland Press Herald on January 28
“Maine won’t wait.” Governor Janet Mills boldy spoke those words before the United Nations General Assembly in September, sending a clear message across the region and around the world that Maine is stepping up to meet the challenge of combating climate change and building its clean energy economy.
If the past year is any indication, it is clear that Maine isn’t waiting. Thanks to swift action by the governor, renewed bipartisan support in the Legislature, and home-grown innovations, Maine is suddenly at the forefront of clean energy leadership.
In the spring, Governor Mills introduced legislation to establish the Maine Climate Council, charged with developing a comprehensive plan to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. The bill was passed with overwhelming support from the Legislature and the Council convened for the first time in September, setting Maine on a path to accomplish one of the most aggressive emissions reductions in the country.
Maine has also signaled to the solar and wind industries that it is once again open for business. Last spring, the Legislature passed a bill by Senator Dana Dow to incentivize 375 megawatts (MW) of new distributed generation, most of which is expected to be met by solar, and another bill sponsored by Representative Seth Berry to restore net metering in the state. Mainers are now being fairly compensated for the excess solar energy they produce and provide to the grid. The Mills Administration and Senator Eloise Vitelli also led a successful effort to increase the state's overall renewable energy goals. And in one of her first executive actions, Governor Mills ended the previous administration’s moratorium on new wind projects.
Offshore wind is particularly poised to take off. In fact, the University of Maine is leading innovation in this rapidly growing industry. The Maine Aqua Ventus program will generate 12 MW of clean, renewable energy and is slated to be the first floating turbine demonstration project in the country. Meanwhile, the newly formed Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Regional Task Force is exploring the state’s abundant potential for further offshore wind projects.
Maine is also walking the walk on energy efficiency. In November, Governor Mills signed an executive order directing all state agencies to lead by example in pursuing energy efficiency measures. The Legislature demonstrated a similar commitment to energy efficiency last year, passing a bill by the Governor to install more than 100,000 highly-efficient heat pumps statewide by 2025.
All of this activity represents an economic development opportunity for Maine. And that is why our organization, the Northeast Clean Energy Council is hosting our annual Clean Energy Day in Augusta. Our member companies - from solar providers to energy storage developers to wind companies - see opportunity in Maine as a promising market and are making investments to build out the local clean energy economy.
Our members are excited to continue their engagement, share experiences and partner with Governor Mills’s administration and members of the Legislature to build a long-lasting and sustainable clean energy sector. Together, we can ensure that Maine continues not to wait and remains a global example of a clean energy champion for years to come.