Maine State Capitol at night. Photo by Ramona du Houx

By Ramona du Houx

July 3, 2009

Many people in Maine have said they want to buy as much of their power as possible from locally owned renewable power sources. A first-in-the-nation bill, passed this session, addresses the issue.

An Act to Establish the Community Based Renewable Energy Pilot Program calls for a six-year pilot program to test incentives to expand renewable power generation by individuals and communities.

“Maine has firmly established itself as a national leader in the creation of renewable energy,” said Governor Baldacci. “This bill expands our commitment to end our dependency on fossil fuels. The pilot program is an important tool to evaluate the potential of small-scale, renewable-power generation that can be put into the grid and used by other Maine homeowners and businesses.”

The law calls for the Public Utilities Commission to arrange for a “green power” purchasing offer, enabling consumers to voluntarily pay higher rates to buy power from renewable sources.

Another first-in-the-nation law to help reduce mercury pollution by requiring compact fluorescent light-bulb manufacturers to share the costs and responsibility for recycling their mercury-containing bulbs became law. Similar bills are now pending in MA and VT.

“At this point, the two greatest risks for mercury in Maine’s environment are Midwestern coal plants and the growing threat of mercury lighting in our landfills and incinerators,” said House Whip Rep. Seth Berry, the bill’s sponsor. “By helping Mainers use and properly recycle CFL bulbs, this bill tackles both. Now we can all breathe easily as we screw in a CFL, knowing that we will avoid contributing to mercury contamination and continue to save $30 to $100 and half a ton of CO2 emissions with every bulb.”

Seth Goodall, Senate chair of the Natural Resources Committee said, “It makes sense to make more of our products from recycled materials. Every bulb collected through this program will be recycled into a new product. That’s what sustainability is all about.”

Maine has a long record of successful initiatives to make sure the state reduces the amount of mercury and other hazardous materials released from consumer products.

Over the last few years, Maine passed first-in-the-nation laws to require producers to:

· safely recycle mercury in auto switches,
· provide incentives for the safe recycling of mercury-containing thermostats,
· ensure safe recycling of spent computers and televisions.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are an important part of our effort to reduce energy costs.