Two bills designed to significantly boost solar and distributed energy generation in Maine are making their way through the state legislature. Two others have passed in both houses of state government and need Gov. Janet Mills’s signature.
LD 1494, "An Act To Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard," would raise the amount of electricity from renewable energy sources Maine utilities are required to acquire to 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
LD 1711, "An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine," would open new opportunities for utility-scale, commercial and industrial, community solar and other forms of shared solar and distributed energy project development, generation and distribution.
The bill, among other things, would direct the Public Utilities Commission to solicit bids for long-term contracts to supply as much as 400 megawatts of electricity from solar power projects, procure 125 megawatts of distributed generation resources associated with commercial or institutional customer accounts through a bid solicitation process and direct the PUC to procure 250 MW for the output of large-scale shared distributed generation resources through a bid solicitation process.
LD 1711 also expands and better defines Maine's net energy billing policy, which is often generally referred to as net metering.
The Maine Heritage Policy Center testified in opposition to LD 1494. The bill to raise Maine's RPS to 80 percent "would do little to benefit Mainers. In fact, this legislation would favor some industries over others by picking which energy providers would be able to service the state of Maine," Maine Heritage Policy Center Analyst Adam Crepeau said.
"The current portfolio standard is 30 percent and this bill would require providers to increase its portfolio supply of retail electricity to 80 percent. While this may be well intentioned, it would do little to mitigate the impact of climate change overall. [Maine Heritage] is opposed to LD 1494 because it would inevitably pick winners and losers in the energy generation sector. We are opposed to any bills that would create mandates for businesses and more red tape for entities that operate in the state of Maine."
LD 1494 and other new mandates are not likely to have much of an impact on climate change given Maine accounts for 0.3 percent of national electricity generation and so much of the electricity generated in the state comes from renewable resources, Crepeau said.
"In other words, this bill would create more red tape without making a significant difference in reducing carbon emissions," he said.
Maine advocacy, the Industrial Energy Consumers Group (IECG) voiced similar views in opposing passage of LD 1711. In doing so, IECG spokesman Todd Griset highlighted long-standing efforts IECG has made to help Maine industries invest in and make use of emerging renewable energy, distributed generation, energy efficiency and demand response technology and systems.
"No customer sector has done more than our sector to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, all at significant cost," Griset said. "And we participate at all levels to help to find the energy options that best promote the future public interest."
IECG supports some aspects of LD 1711 but says it would be costly and would not minimize ratepayer increases.
"Like the failed solar bill in 2016, the provisions in Sections A-4 through A-7 of the bill are complicated and create cumbersome structures and if they lead to more distributed generation or solar, they will do so at the highest possible cost," Griset said.
Previous Gov. Paul LePage opposed similar measures introduced during his two, four-year terms in office.