Maine Ramps Up its Commitment to Clean Energy

The northeasternmost state, Maine is known for its iconic lighthouses, rugged coastline, maritime history, and more recently – its commitment to clean energy.

Energy Efficiency and Solar Jobs

At the end of 2018, the state employed more than 8,640 workers in energy efficiency alone. These employees are delivering goods and services that lower energy consumption by improving technologies and appliances, as well as building more energy-efficient systems. The HVAC sector had the strongest showing with more than 5,240 residents helping Maine reduce its carbon emissions by manufacturing, installing and servicing efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

According to The Solar Foundation’s most recent National Jobs Census, Maine employed 635 residents in solar at the end of 2018. With 55 megawatts (MW) of solar installed throughout the Pine Tree State, there is enough capacity online to power nearly 9,800 homes. Compared to other states, Maine has a small solar workforce. However, the New England state has demonstrated a massive growth potential, providing the appropriate policies are in place.

Those favorable policies are underway.

Supportive Clean Energy Policies Pave the Way to a Carbon-Free Future

In June, Governor Janet Mills signed three bills that are reviving the transition to a renewable energy future for the state. Perhaps the most significant bill is LD 1494, which increases Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 80 percent renewable energy 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. This means Maine has joined a handful of other states that have committed to carbon-free energy in the next two decades.  

Other crucial bills that the governor signed include:

  • LD 1282: promotes workforce development to increase the solar capacity for schools.
  • LD 1679: establishes the Maine Climate Council that will lead the state’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 45 percent of its 1990 levels by 2030.
  • LD 614: establishes an electric vehicle rebate program starting in 2020.
  • LD 1711: creates a grant program to support the installation of 375 MW of distributed solar by 2024.

To put the last bill into perspective, since Maine has 55 MW currently online, adding 375 MW to its grid will increase the state’s solar capacity by seven-fold. And, since Maine resurrected its net-metering policies, solar energy may account for 3.5 to 4 percent of the state’s energy needs.

Sustaining a Clean Energy Economy for Years to Come

Increasing the state’s renewable energy production in 2019 was a high priority for lawmakers, writes Senator Jim Dill, because these policies create “good, high-paying jobs” while preserving Maine’s heritage industries.  

The state is no stranger to leading the clean energy transition. From hydroelectric facilities to wind farms to biomass plants, the northeastern state sources nearly three-quarters of its total electricity from renewable sources.

But there’s still work to do. Ensuring that low-income communities have access to affordable power while supporting union jobs that secure living wages for clean energy workers are among the top priorities for advocacy groups like the Sierra Club. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but Maine is showing its dedication to creating and sustaining a cleaner future for its residents and their children, and the next generation’s children.

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