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Gov. Janet Mills Wednesday signed into law three bills intended to spur renewable energy in Maine, create clean energy jobs and address climate change.
The new laws will significantly increase the amount of renewable energy in Maine, reduce emissions and support clean energy job growth, according to a news release from Mills' office. They:
“With the signing of these bills, Maine is ushering in a new era of clean energy and climate leadership,” said Mills as she stood in front of the Cianbro solar arrray in Pittsfield, the state's largest.
“The Maine Climate Council will develop comprehensive action plans to meet our ambitious emissions reductions goals and the renewable energy legislation will spur clean energy development and investments that will increase production of homegrown, renewable energy and create good paying jobs for the people of Maine. Maine is once-again leading on clean energy.”
LD 1679, which promotes clean energy jobs and establishes the Maine Climate Council, is a governor’s bill sponsored by Sen. David Woodsome, R-Waterboro. The council is charged with leading Maine’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2030 and at least 80% by 2050.
The council will develop an action plan to meet those goals, to promote jobs and economic benefits for Maine people in the transition to a lower-carbon economy and to support the climate resilience of communities.
LD 1494 reforms the state's renewable portfolio standard, which requires that a specific amount of the electricity sold to consumers comes from renewable resources. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Arrowsic, the assistant Senate majority leader. It increases Maine’s RPS to achieve 80% renewable energy by 2030, up from 40% today and with a goal of 100% by 2050.
In addition, it requires the Public Utilities Commission to procure long-term contracts for new clean energy generation, which may be paired with advanced energy storage and requires the creation of a new thermal portfolio standard to incentivize efficient heating and cooling installations; contains several cost containment mechanisms, including a $50 cap on alternative compliance payments; and requires renewable energy policy studies to be conducted in conjunction with other planning efforts.
"This bill gives Maine one of most ambitious RPS programs in the country," said the release from Mills' office.
LD 1711 promotes solar energy projects and distributed generation resources, and was sponsored by Sen. Dana Dow, R-Lincoln. It will incentivize at least 375 megawatts of new distributed generation in Maine, which is expected to be primarily solar photovoltaic development for projects under 5 MW.
The bill creates two incentives, one for commercial and institutional customers and another for community shared projects, with prices that are set competitively and declining in subsequent procurements.
The bill also removes the net energy billing account and size cap; requires that community shared projects serve low- and moderate-income customers; encourages development of landfill and brownfield projects and may incentivize the pairing with energy storage. In addition, LD 1711 allows for a new net energy billing program with an alternative bill credit for non-residential customers.
On Tuesday, Mills signed into law LD 1364, introduced by Rep. Nicole Grohoski, D-Ellsworth. The legislation restricts internet service providers from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up the delivery of online content at their discretion and follows the Federal Communication Commission’s repeal of net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration.
In addition, Mills signed a comprehensive prescription drug reform package that included LD 1272, LD 1499, LD 1162 and LD 1504. The package contains a suite of proposals that would allow the wholesale importation of prescription medicine, create a prescription drug affordability board, increase drug price transparency and better regulate pharmacy benefit managers.
The bills were sponsored by Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, the Senate president; Sen. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland; and Vitelli.
“The outrageous prices of prescription drugs are hurting Mainers, especially older Mainers on a fixed and limited income. No one should have to choose between food or medicine,” said Mills. “With this package of legislation, Maine is taking a major step forward in tackling this issue and standing up for Maine people.
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