March 23, 2019
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Maine should plan for energy independence by 2030

George Danby | BDN
George Danby | BDN

Maine’s energy systems place our state today at a critical decision point.

On one hand, inaction and inertia leads to grave economic disruptions from a sharply changing climate.

On the other, an expansion of renewable energy offers real economic opportunity.

Technological innovations are propelling neighboring states and provinces to capitalize on the promise and profitable benefits of clean energy generation.

Yet despite abundant potential from wind, biomass, solar and hydropower, Maine lacks a comprehensive vision for sustainable energy development.

The economic prosperity of Maine over the next generation hinges on sound energy planning decisions executed within the next few years.

As Mainers, we understand ourselves to be responsible individuals who bank dry firewood in the summer rather than burn green in the winter. We pride ourselves on collectively pitching in against adversity to get things done.

We have the technological means to avoid the economic disruption of climate change and we have the resources to benefit from renewable energy produced here in state. The uncertainty is only whether we also possess the vision and will to prepare prudently for a more prosperous future.

Currently, Maine spends over $5 billion annually on energy. Of that, $3.4 billion is spent on imported petroleum.

Maine has the potential resources to produce sufficient energy to offset and even eventually displace all of the state’s imported carbon fuels.

All we need for Maine to become a net exporter rather than importer of energy is prudent planning and policies that support already emerging markets for renewable energy.

At present, 36 percent of Maine’s total energy usage is already met by renewable sources: largely hydropower, wind and biomass. About three-quarters of Maine’s electrical use already comes from renewable sources.

Expanded electrification can further displace carbon fuels. Modern electric heat pumps will greatly reduce consumption of heating oil.

More practical support for electric vehicles will further reduce consumption of gasoline. With workplace recharging, batteries of electric vehicles themselves can serve to balance energy supply.

To strengthen the resilience of the power grid, distributed solar generation, combined with energy storage, can be installed at essential facilities such as hospitals, schools and municipal shelters and then grown as needed to include whole communities.

Increasing efficiency can reduce Maine’s high per-capita energy use and improve our competitiveness with other states.

To move forward, we need an economic plan which allows rapid market-driven development of renewable resources over the next ten years. That’s why I’ve introduced LD 658 which directs a plan for energy independence by 2030, and will be heard in the Energy Committee on February 26.

This plan can evaluate the relative returns on investment in each sector of renewable energy, conservation and efficiency and then scale those by cost-effectiveness into one feasible plan which offsets the value of Maine’s current energy imports.

If we are indeed serious about curtailing carbon emissions, we need to know what combination of solar, wind, hydro, biomass, conservation and efficiency can match the needs of Maine’s citizens, businesses and industries.

I am heartened that Gov. Mills is committing to reinvigorated economic planning for Maine and to reduce carbon emissions in acknowledgment of the environmental urgency of our time.

Along with my colleagues of all stripes in the legislature, I am looking forward to enacting well-considered policies that express our common interest in energy independence, community resilience and economic prosperity for Maine.

With our neighboring states, we will weigh difficult policy decisions which will have significant effect on the well-being and prosperity of our children. It’s time to set aside old policy preconceptions, roll up our sleeves, and engage in open-minded planning for change.

Rep. Brian Hubbell represents the towns of Bar Harbor, Mount Desert, and Lamoine and serves on the Appropriations Committee. He is in his fourth term in the Maine House.

 



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