Maine passes aggressive energy reforms

Maine Governor John E. Baldacci signed five bills into law that reflect an aggressive agenda for energy independence in the state. The bills cover reforms including energy infrastructure development, smart grid development, making clean energy affordable, as well as support for wind and ocean energy.

Maine has been working to build its clean energy infrastructure since 2003 when it started pushing weatherization and other green initiatives.  Last year,  the state passed a comprehensive energy package which established several clean energy goals including weatherizing all residences and 50 percent of businesses by 2030, reducing the state’s consumption of fossil fuels, creating 3000 megawatts of wind energy by 2020 and consolidating all energy efficiency programs under a single umbrella. The five new bills continue to build on this agenda.

Under the new laws, Maine will create energy corridors designed to build a reliable energy infrastructure that supports low-cost electricity as well as renewable energy generation. The state also plans to utilize smart grid technology to streamline electric storage and peak-reduction strategies.

Businesses and homeowners will also get a boost under the new laws, which ushered in a property assessed clean energy (PACE) program, designed to help property owners with the cost of making energy efficient upgrades by allowing them to pay for the cost in their property tax assessments.  PACE programs are property owner agnostic, the tax assessment will last for the life of the cost to repay regardless of who owns the property over time.

The state also outlined its plans to increase its reliance on wind and ocean based power sources by creating “predictable benefits” from wind developments and incentivizes advancements in developing ocean energy.  A competitive process will be conducted by the Main Public Utilities Commission for long-term contracting from one or more deep-water offshore wind energy pilot projects.

“For far too long we’ve been dependent on fossil fuels to heat our homes, power our industries and transport goods and people. Together, we are pursuing clean, renewable, home-grown energy that will enable us to kick the oil habit,”  Governor Baldacci said during his signing ceremony for the new laws.

Maine will also be putting a bond question on the ballot in June which would provide $11 million for research and development of ocean wind sites and wind energy components manufacturing in the state.

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