Greg Kesich’s March 6 column “Renewable energy best way to fight Putin” is a tease. Sure, less fossil fuel dependence would limit Putin’s clout, but that’s a many-year process. And blunting Putin’s aggression is not the main reason to accelerate the shift to carbon-free energy. Climate-linked disasters are more frequent and more severe than at any time in recorded history. The latest UN climate update sounds the alarm: greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly moving the Earth to a point of no return, where massive ecological damage – and massive human suffering – are irreversible.

The UN report’s challenge is stark: at every level, from global to local, drastic measures are needed to cut emissions and adapt to the “global weirding” already underway. The United States is currently failing that test, despite the Biden administration’s ambitious commitments. Build Back Better’s half-trillion dollars of climate initiatives is in limbo. A carbon price, which experts agree is the most cost-effective climate policy, is not even on the agenda. The Supreme Court seems poised to strip the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon emissions. And, paradoxically, Putin’s aggression has made expanding oil and natural gas supplies America’s near-term priority.

In contrast, Maine has framed a comprehensive response to the climate crisis: “Maine Won’t Wait.” The strategy sets carbon reduction targets of 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Those goals are backed by scores of emission reduction and climate adaptation measures, from the state-level down to individual communities.  Meeting the targets requires “decarbonizing” electricity generation with renewables while electrifying the economy with heat pumps, electric vehicles and more.  But reality is less encouraging: in 2021 Maine missed two game-changing opportunities.

The Clean Energy Corridor project would have sent a large volume of renewable hydro-electric power to southern New England, enabling our region to cut dependence on carbon-based electricity. The state negotiated an array of economic and clean energy benefits for Maine as well.  However, a disingenuous “not in my backyard” campaign, largely financed by fossil energy corporations, persuaded voters to reject the corridor in a November referendum.

The Legislature enacted a bill creating Pine Tree Power (PTP), a consumer-owned utility, to replace Maine’s poorly-performing for-profit utilities.  Debate centered on improving reliability and customer service. But more important for climate strategy was PTP’s ability to invest by borrowing at low interest rates and eliminating foreign owners’ profits – billions of investments are needed to build-out the electric grid and connect dispersed renewable power sources. Governor Mills vetoed Pine Tree Power – a climate strategy mistake. The administration’s substitute, the Utility Accountability Act, is a weak half-way measure that does essentially nothing to address the enormous capital costs of grid expansion and renewable connectivity.

Maine cannot afford to reject such opportunities, and the legislature has another chance to “go big” with “An Act to Create the Maine Generation Authority,” sponsored by Rep. Nicole Grohosky D-Ellsworth.  To reach the “Maine Won’t Wait” targets, renewable generation will have to expand very rapidly by 2030 and very thoroughly by 2050. This means a massive shift from electricity costs dominated by “imported” fossil fuels to costs dominated by capital outlays for new solar, wind, tidal and electricity storage. Maine’s challenge, in brief, is to accelerate the pace of investment in renewables and simultaneously minimize costs. The Maine Generation Authority would be a giant step toward those twin objectives.


Credible investment estimates, to reach 100 per cent renewable power and electrify Maine’s economy, run to tens of billions. The cost will be far greater – and the burden on Maine rate payers far heavier – the more additional capacity is privately financed at market interest rates and added shareholder profits. The Maine Generation Authority could access capital at a far lower cost by issuing tax-exempt revenue bonds, backed by its electricity sales.

Just as important, the MGA could target capital to the most effective mix of technologies and locations, instead of relying almost entirely on market incentives and profit-driven decisions. Two examples of strategic capital targeting are battery storage networks, to offset irregular wind and solar generation; and large off-shore wind arrays, which will provide a growing share of new capacity after 2030. In essence, the MGA’s mix of low cost capital and investment targeting would fill critical gaps in the private and community renewables projects that are now taking-off.

The MGA offers a solid foundation for decarbonizing Maine’s power system and electrifying our economy in coming decades. Such bold innovations will be crucial for reaching Maine’s clean energy goals at a tolerable cost to rate payers.

— Special to the Press Herald

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