If you’re wondering what Maine’s clean-energy future will look like, here it is.

After a successful round of bids two years ago, the Legislature is set to vote on another that would do much the same thing: Bring more renewable sources of energy onto the grid while stabilizing prices and investing millions of dollars in Maine.

Lawmakers shouldn’t hesitate for a moment.

The bill under consideration, L.D. 1350, from Sen. Eloise Vitelli, a Democrat from Arrowsic, builds on a similar law enacted in 2019, also sponsored by Vitelli.

The previous bill authorized a competitive bid solicitation that led to the approval of long-term contracts for 17 clean-energy projects, mostly solar but also hydropower, wind and biomass, equaling nearly 10 percent of the electricity used statewide per year.

The price of the electricity produced under those contracts in the first year averaged 3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, the historic market price for energy on the New England grid – and one which is not subject to the same whims of the world market as natural gas and oil.

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But a low, stable price is hardly the only benefit. Replacing generators using fossil fuels with these projects will take an estimated 500,000 tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere each year. It represents a $145 million investment in Maine-based interests and will generate hundreds of construction jobs, as well as more than 30 jobs each year in operation, and millions in taxes and payments to host communities.

L.D. 1350 would authorize the Maine Public Utilities Commission to hold two additional competitive solicitations, ultimately bringing on board another set of renewable projects equal to 7.5 percent of retail electric sales in 2019.

Only projects that began operation after June 20, 2022, are eligible. And in a change from the previous round, special consideration will be given to projects in economically distressed areas of the state.

The bill also calls for the PUC to give consideration to projects sited on lands degraded or contaminated by PFAS, the “forever chemicals” found in the sludge formerly spread on Maine farmland as fertilizer.

The contamination is being found in farmland throughout the state, rendering it nearly useless for growing, at the same time that the development of solar farms has raised concerns about the loss of prime agricultural land. Prioritizing PFAS-contaminated land could be a lifeline for farmers whose land can no longer be used for growing, while keeping prime land dedicated to farming.

The 2019 law allowed Maine to add to its supply the most clean energy in decades – a truly landmark achievement that has lived up to the billing.

The Legislature should pass L.D. 1350 to build on that success – and to make sure that everyone involved in the growing clean energy industry knows that Maine is dedicated to making it everything it can be.


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