Maine’s economy is deeply tied to our natural resources. We see this in everything from our tourism industry, to lumber and lobstering, and now to emerging industries like solar and wind energy. Solar energy has experienced a real boom in Maine in the last few years. More and more homeowners and businesses are using solar energy to help them save on their electric bills, while helping to reduce overall carbon emissions. As more solar companies and projects grow, they add good-paying jobs right here in Maine.

Green energy sources have their limits, however. During weather that’s not sunny or windy, the energy generated by solar panels and wind turbines drops off. The good news is, there’s another emerging and growing industry that can help Maine take better advantage of green energy projects and create even more job opportunities.

Through this autumn and into December, I chaired a state commission to study whether energy storage projects would help Maine’s economy and residents. People who served on this commission came from a variety of backgrounds, including fellow lawmakers, conservation advocates, business owners and energy experts. What we learned is that energy storage is an evolving industry with the potential to complement green energy. Making sure Maine is poised to support this industry will help us grow our state’s energy independence and lower costs for everyday Mainers. Those are two big wins.

Energy storage projects would help us use green energy sources, such as solar and wind, more efficiently and reliably. For example, on a particularly windy day, the extra energy generated by a turbine can be stored and used later, when winds are low or when energy needs are high. Without energy storage, the extra energy from that day would simply go unused. Think of it as a “rainy day fund” for our electricity grid.

One of the major questions our commission asked was: Can energy storage added to wind or solar generation benefit working and low-income Mainers? We know that energy storage projects will help us support our growing green energy industries. But if the cost was going to hurt Mainers who are already struggling to get by, it wouldn’t make sense. I was excited to learn that energy storage projects could in fact help Maine consumers save money.

We heard from industry experts that stored energy could also help increase the reliability of our state’s energy grid, and help energy production facilities and transmission lines be designed in a more effective, less expensive way. As our electric rates are set up now, consumers often see higher bills because of the rise and fall of energy demands over time. Adding energy storage projects can even out the peaks and valleys, which would help lower bills for ratepayers, including business owners, while contributing to a more reliant electric supply.

There are so many fascinating emerging industries in our country and state right now. I’m honored to work at the State House, where I have the opportunity to hear from innovators from across our state and New England. The commission I served on has wrapped up its work, and will recommend bills to the full Legislature for the coming year. If you’d like to learn more about the work we did, and about how energy storage projects can help Maine, you can read our report online.

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