Gov. Baldacci on law changes to help Maine's renewable energy future

The power to do the right thing

2010 Radio address by Governor John E. Baldacci on Maine's renewable energy future

Next week, I’ll be traveling to Eastport to visit Ocean Renewable Power Company. The company is operating the largest ocean energy “power plant” ever installed in U.S. waters. The prototype machinery produces grid-compatible power from the tidal currents in Cobscook Bay.

Ocean Renewable Power Company is partnering with the University of Maine and has received significant support from the federal government to continue its work. The tests that are now being conducted will lead to the installation of commercial tidal power generation in Eastport next year. Maine’s efforts to build new industries based on renewable power are meeting with great success.

Whether it’s the development of onshore or offshore wind energy, tidal or hydropower or capitalizing on our vast forest resources to produce bio-fuels, Maine is leading the way toward a cleaner and more sustainable energy future. Despite the great progress that we’ve made, everyone understands that much work remains.

Maine, like the rest of the country, must reduce its dependence on costly, foreign oil. Our economy, our industries and our wallets are at the mercy of energy producers far from Maine. If we want to secure our manufacturing jobs, make sure families can afford to heat their homes and drive to work, we have to be willing to change.

Fortunately, Maine has tremendous potential energy resources that are cleaner and safer than the fossil fuels that we currently depend upon. About 80 percent of Maine homes rely on heating oil to stay warm during the winter.
And the rural nature of our State means that workers spend more of their hard-earned money for gas just to get to their jobs.

Those facts are undeniable.

It’s not enough to bemoan our predicament. We have it within our power to change things. For example, onshore and offshore wind power have the potential to produce large amounts of affordable electricity right here in Maine, reducing costs and growing jobs.

In the spring of 2007, the writing was on the wall.Maine’s laws were badly outdated, inadequate to address our State’s potential to produce wind energy.I formed a Task Force that worked for nearly a year to craft recommendations to improve the situation.The diverse group included environmentalists, energy experts, generators and legislators on both sides of the aisle.Through an open and exhaustive process, the group came up with a plan, which was eventually adopted unanimously by the Maine Legislature.That law has led to the safe, predictable and appropriate development of new wind power production in Maine.

But the Task Force wasn’t solely concerned with growing wind power. The members were dedicated to finding a framework that allowed for development while also protecting Maine’s treasured and unique scenic and natural resources.

In addition, the Task Force developed regulations that take into account public health and safety, and put into place rules that strengthen the oversight of wind power developments.

As the days of $4 a gallon gasoline have faded from our memory, and the effects of the global recession have reduced the demand for oil and natural gas, bashing wind power has come into vogue for some folks. They are willing to do and say whatever is necessary to keep Maine from taking control of its energy future and transitioning from our deep dependency on fossil fuels. I take comfort, however, knowing that vast majority of Mainers – more than 80 percent according to some studies – support our State’s efforts to charter a new and more sustainable energy future.

Curing our addiction to oil can’t happen overnight. It takes a long-term commitment and a comprehensive approach that includes many components.

Maine is recognized nationally for our energy conservation and weatherization work. With each passing day, we are making more homes and businesses energy efficient. That saves money and it saves jobs.In addition, we’re continuing to work on bio-fuels and bio-mass electricity generation, the development of tidal, solar and hydropower, and other innovative ways to produce renewable energy.

No source of energy is perfect. Coal, oil and nuclear power all bring tremendous challenges, many of which have never been appropriately addressed. In that context, wind, tidal and bio-mass energy compare very favorably.

Maine is heading in the right direction. We are growing our new, clean-energy industries in our State, which are creating real benefits for workers, families and communities.

But our work has not ended.

Just as we needed to modernize our approach to renewable energy back in 2008, the process to refine and improve continues.In Maine, our political process is very open and accessible.Lawmakers listen to their constituents and work to put the best interest of the State ahead of politics.So as new technologies develop and new information becomes available, the way we approach energy projects will evolve and get stronger.

But this I know for certain: If we are committed to a robust economy, cleaner air and water, and greater national security, we must support the development of homegrown, renewable sources of energy.If we turn our back on opportunity, the price will be high for future generations.

Time and time again, Mainers have shown that they can find the truth and make smart decisions even when confronted with complicated issues and misinformation.I know that they’re going to do that again, and will lead our State down the road to greater prosperity and energy independence.

- Governor John Baldacci