Maine Establishes New Renewable Energy Laws

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On Wednesday, standing in front of a solar array in the presence of lawmakers and renewable energy stakeholders, Gov. Janet Mills, D-Maine, signed into law three major pieces of bipartisan clean energy legislation.

The bills establish in law the governor’s proposed Maine Climate Council, which is charged with developing action plans to reduce Maine’s greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050; an increase in Maine’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) from 40% to 80% by 2030 and a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050; the creation of new incentives for energy-efficient heating; and the institution of new solar incentive programs.

“With the signing of these bills, Maine is ushering in a new era of clean energy and climate leadership,” says Mills. “The Maine Climate Council will develop comprehensive action plans to meet our ambitious emissions reductions goals, and the renewable energy legislation will spur clean energy development and investments that will increase production of homegrown, renewable energy and create good-paying jobs for the people of Maine. Maine is once again leading on clean energy.”

“Maine is once again proving itself a leader on climate action and showing that climate change is a bipartisan concern that requires urgent action,” says Lisa Pohlmann, CEO of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “Thanks to the impassioned leadership of Governor Mills and legislators across Maine who care about the state’s future, we are now poised to meet this challenge head on by advancing solutions that will strengthen our economy and create more resilient communities.”

First, L.D.1679, An Act To Promote Clean Energy Jobs and To Establish the Maine Climate Council, is a governor’s bill sponsored by State Sen. David Woodsome, R-York. The Maine Climate Council was proposed by Mills in April.

“I am honored to have sponsored L.D.1679 … it has been in the making for several years and finally found a champion in Governor Mills,” says Woodsome. “There is still much work to be done to make this effort comprehensive and economically effective. I look forward to achieving this goal.”

Under L.D.1494, An Act To Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard – sponsored by State Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic – the state’s RPS doubles, and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) must procure long-term contracts for new clean energy generation, which may be paired with energy storage.

“The update of our renewable portfolio standards provides the needed steps to protect our natural resources while investing in our economy,” says Vitelli.

L.D.1711, An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine – sponsored by State Sen. Dana Dow, R-Lincoln – will incentivize at least 375 MW of new distributed generation in Maine, which is expected to be primarily solar PV development for projects under 5 MW. The bill creates two separate but complementary incentives, one for commercial and institutional customers and another for community solar projects, with prices that are set competitively and decline in subsequent procurements.

This bill also removes the net energy billing account and size cap, requires that community solar projects serve low- and moderate-income customers, and encourages the development of landfill and brownfield projects. In addition, L.D.1711 allows for a new net energy billing program with an alternative bill credit for non-residential customers.

“This new law allows medium-sized projects like schools and municipalities to get into the solar market, and many larger solar companies are excited about the jobs it will create here in Maine,” says Dow.

Earlier this month, Mills signed into law L.D.994, which requires the PUC to approve a contract for the University of Maine’s floating offshore wind demo, Maine Aqua Ventus. The governor also announced a state-wide offshore wind initiative and Maine’s participation in a federal offshore wind task force.

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