Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Renewable Energy Resources Program

The Maine Legislature will be taking up a bill, LD 1450 (HP 1006) that could greatly increase the potential for renewable energy for Maine, as well as offer the opportunity for job creation.

The hearing on the bill is scheduled for 1:30 pm, Tuesday, April 14 in the Utilities and Energy Joint Committee's hearing room, Room 211, Burton Cross Office Building. The Cross Building is located behind the Capital building, on the Sewall Street side.

LD 1450 would allow Maine citizens to reduce their energy costs, in fact, may allow them to profit from energy production, by selling their net energy production (from, say, solar panels on their home) back into the grid. Basically, the legislation would enact a feed-in tariff in Maine. The feed-in tariff is credited with boosting the solar power industry in Germany, Spain, and Denmark, and the creation of jobs. Wikipedia has an article on the feed-in tariff and is a good introduction. The Midcoast Green Collaborative also has some helpful information about the tariff, as well as a list of other resources and articles to get you up to speed on the concept.

Ontario has enacted legislation similar to LD 1450 and only one month after passage, a company that produces solar panels is locating just outside of Toronto, in Kingston, and will create 1,200 jobs.

A friend of mine, with a strong science background and 20 years of engineering work experience in Maine's paper industry, as well as the state's semiconductor sector, is urging passage of the bill.

He sent me the following information in an email:

I believe the Renewable Energy Resources Program is vital for Maine's citizens because:

1. It lessens Maine's dependence on out-of-state energy sources.
2. It will create good paying renewable energy jobs in Maine. These jobs will be local jobs, difficult to export or outsource.
3. It will help Maine citizens to reduce their energy costs, in fact, may allow them to profit from energy production.
4. It will act as a model for other states. If enough electricity is generated from renewable sources it will lessen the amount of electricity generated by coal fired plants that contribute to Maine's acid rain problem and to global warming.
5. It encourages distributed power generation, alleviating outages caused by the electrical power grid. Just in the last few years Maine has suffered through several ice storms and experienced extended power outages for tens of thousands of Mainers. Distributed power generation will reduce this problem.

The proposed legislation is modeled on a German law passed in 2000 that has had extremely good results. In recent years, Germany has greatly increased the amount of renewable energy they produce. The costs associated with producing this power have decreased and the number of power outages (brownouts and blackouts) has been greatly diminished. With the passage of the Renewable Energy Resources Program, Maine will gain these same advantages.

The Renewable Energy Resources Program is good public policy. It does not depend on tax dollars or tax credits. The Renewable Energy Resources Program rewards investment in renewable energy sources by ensuring a predictable rate of return. It encourages early adoption of renewable energy systems and provides strong incentives for performance and efficiency.

There is an informative interview with the bill's sponsor, Maine State Representative, Herb Adams (D-Portland), explaining the bill, and speaking about the state's potential to harness some of our natural resources like wind, tidal, geothermal, biomass and other renewal sources, which could benefit our state. Click here for Rep. Adams' interview with Marc Strassman, of Etopia News.

Given the hemorrhaging of jobs occurring across the state, the bill could be a positive first step towards the development of real green jobs.

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