Just a short jaunt across the Piscataqua River from Kittery, my passion for renewable energy and environmental protection was born. Growing up on the Piscataqua fueled my dream of making a positive impact on the world and drove me to my now alma mater, Bowdoin College. Since then, and for the majority of the last decade, I dedicated my professional career to renewable energy development while working at Sol Systems – a job that I am proud to say allows me the opportunity to work toward my goal to leave a positive on-the-ground impact right here in Maine.
The Opportunity in Maine
In 2019, Governor Janet Mills signed legislation that set Maine on a path toward becoming a clean energy leader by expanding the state Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) with a target to meet 100% renewable electricity sales by 2050. In addition, Gov. Mills established the Net Energy Billing Program that provides local businesses, municipalities, schools, and residents the opportunity to benefit from solar and other renewable energy sources in a way that will not only save money on their electricity bills, but also help protect the environment.
Under the Net Energy Billing Program, customers can use Net Energy Billing Credits (“NEBC”) to offset their electricity bills. NEBCs are generated from the output of a solar energy project installation with a total system size of up to 5MW. Under the Net Energy Billing Program, a solar energy project can be located either on property owned by the customer (a rooftop, parking lot, field, etc.) or on a separate property so long as it is in the same utility territory – a critical detail that allows a greater number of customers to benefit from the program.
For example, a business with a shaded roof, a community college with inadequate space, or a municipality with a limited land-based footprint can still partake in the economic savings and other benefits provided by solar energy. Together with those individual customer savings and benefits, tens of millions of dollars will be invested directly into community-level projects, creating thousands of new renewable industry jobs and local opportunity.
The Next Step for Maine
While we commend Gov. Mills for taking a big step forward by committing to 100% renewable electricity sales by 2050, there is a lot of work left to do to implement the new NEBC program. As a state, Maine regulators can learn from the lessons learned in surrounding states who successfully developed and implemented similar programs. It is essential that businesses looking at building a permanent footprint in the Maine renewable energy market can operate in a consistent and predictable regulatory landscape.
On the financial side, solar and other renewable energy technologies offer a unique opportunity to begin to rebuild energy sector losses suffered amid this national pandemic. The renewable energy asset class in the United States, particularly solar and wind projects, have come to be seen by the project finance community as something of a safe-harbor. These projects provide steady dollar-denominated contracted cash flows, often with investment-grade counterparties, and are non-correlated to the stock market in one of the most volatile periods of its history.
The External Factors for Maine
Importantly, the renewable energy industry is not impervious to market changes and like many other industry sectors is facing its own gauntlet of challenges at the state and federal level. At the federal level, the solar industry is working to extend critical renewable energy federal investment tax credits (“ITC’) that will help to form the foundation to bring back hundreds of thousands of energy-sector jobs and spur the reconstruction of the renewable energy infrastructure across the US.
In addition to extending the ITC, the industry is working to defend against attack at the federal energy regulatory commission (“FERC”) on state autonomy over practical and cost-effective programs to incentivize local business and economic develop and better consumer protection. These programs are critical to Maine and include the Net Energy Billing Program and other net metering programs across the nation and should be left to the discretion of state governments – as been the case historically.
The Road Ahead
I look forward to helping to build renewable energy across Maine and lending my hand to make sure all Maine residents know that renewable energy, job creation and environmental protection are just element of “the way life should be!” I am proud of my history in the state and my opportunity to leave a positive impact on the communities I hold dear to my heart.