Maine's last in New England for new solar power development but leads in wind power

By Ramona du Houx

On July 27, 2017 Environment Maine Research & Policy Center released a report that says that Maine lags on solar power development, ranking 41st in the nation for solar power generation added since 2007. However, Maine did much better on wind power; which grew 16-fold in the decade compared with a seven-fold increase nationally.

“Maine has always been a leader on clean energy" said Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling. “But, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to make the kind of energy transformation that is needed to meet our energy needs with clean, renewable energy. Protecting our long term environmental health involves hard work, collaboration, foresight, and creativity, but it's not a choice, it's a necessity. Here in Portland we continue to work on updating our Climate Action Plan and toward our goal of achieving 100 percent clean energy for municipal operations by 2040."    

The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Positions America for a 100 percent Renewable Future, provides a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with clean, renewable energy, including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. Maine ranked 10th on increase in energy storage capacity and 14th on increase in electricity efficiency savings. The report also showed that the state lags behind on electric cars ranking 35th in the number of electric cars on the road. 

“Maine has always been a leader on clean energy" said Gesensway.  “But, we have a long way to make the kind of energy transformation that is needed and to fulfill our potential to meet our energy needs with clean, renewable energy.” 

The report describes the factors' rapid growth in each category since 2007, including policies, improved technologies and lower costs, all of which suggest the potential for continued rapid growth in the years to come. However, Governor LePage and his regulators have been hostile to solar energy and he recently vetoed a bill that would have restored important solar programs. LePage and other Northeast Governors are poised to decide whether and how to strengthen the best regional climate program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI); which limits carbon from power plants.

“We’ve seen some progress,” said Gesensway. “But, we’re slipping and missing huge opportunities to protect our health and our environment. We need a Governor who believes in clean energy's potential and acts on it."

Maine's previous governor, John Baldacci, did everything he could to position Maine to become energy independent and increased wind, wave and solar power in the state. He also brought Maine into RGGI and enacted programs to help weatherize homes and businesses, making them more energy efficient.

The report also comes as a growing number of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions consider commitments to 100 percent renewable energy. Currently 37 cities have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, including Portland. Nearly 100 major companies have made a 100 percent renewable commitment, including Apple, Walmart and LEGO. Hawaii is committed to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045. California and Massachusetts are currently considering legislation. And, bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress.

City Councilman and Chairman of the sustainability and Transportation Committee, Spencer Thibodeau, spoke on the important work he is doing to ensure Portland reaches 100% renewable energy by 2040. 

“The reality is inescapable: fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land, threatening our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” said Gesensway. “We need to seize the moment, build on recent progress and lean into a future powered by clean, renewable energy.”