Twin bills show Maine isn’t messing around with solar anymore

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We all have to eat crow sometimes, and as embarrassing as it can be, some crows are tastier than others. Just over a week ago, the Maine House passed LD 1282, better known as An Act To Establish a Green New Deal for Maine, which we at pv magazine have been quick to point out is a drastic overselling of the bill. Well, lo and behold, a particularly delicious crow has now been delivered, as yesterday, the Maine Energy, Utilities, & Technology Committee voted 10-1 to support LD 1494.

LD 1494, better known as An Act To Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, is exactly what its title reads as: a bill that looks to expand the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by increasing the amount of renewable electricity sold in-state to 80% by 2030, up from 40% mark that has already been accomplished.

Not only would the bill establish a mandate of 80% renewable energy by 2030, but shortly before being voted on, the bill was amended to include a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050. So we’ve got a solid mandate and an even better long-term target to go with it.

What’s interesting about the bill is that, while 80% by 2030 is, as previously stated, a solid mandate, it feels just a touch less ambitious than it would be in another state. 40% of all electricity sold in the state already comes from renewable resources, driven by the vast amounts of woody biomass generation Maine has, supplemented by a strong fleet of deployed wind generation.

What the state is lacking, maybe what you’ve already guessed by now, considering the name of this publication, is solar. We could go on and on about the stunting of the solar industry in the state done by the LaPage administration, but that’s been well documented. To date, Maine has a total installed solar capacity of 55 MW, according to the latest data from SEIA, good for 43rd in the nation, in the company of the Dakotas, Wyoming and Alaska. These 55 MW account for 0.56% of the state’s electricity generation.

And, considering the RPS accounts for electricity sold in the state, rather than generated, this number could, hilariously enough, be even lower than half of a percent.

But better days are on the horizon, as with the advancing of this bill to the floor of the state legislature, significant progress has also been made on LD 1711An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine. The bill is headlined by three procurement measures:

  1. Directing the Public Utilities Commission to procure 125 megawatts for the output of distributed generation resources associated with commercial or institutional customer accounts…
  2. Directing the Public Utilities Commission to procure 250 megawatts for the output of large-scale shared distributed generation resources…
  3. Directing the Public Utilities Commission to solicit bids for long-term contracts to supply up to 400 megawatts of electricity from solar energy projects…

That right there? That’s serious development, enough to get Maine out of the solar cellar, and quickly. We’ve already seen Maine take its first steps towards taking solar seriously, maybe LD 1711 can turn those steps into strides.

What’s most impressive about Maine is how quickly all of this legislation is getting pushed, and how quickly Governor Mills (D) is looking to undo years of stagnation, starting with the killing of gross metering. Here’s to hoping that this is just the start for The Pine Tree State.