Energy Pathway for Maine
Guiding Principles to Move Us Forward
The market for clean energy is expanding rapidly, as technologies advance and prices become cost-competitive and attractive in comparison to traditional energy choices. Many states and countries have started to make a major energy transition, recognizing the opportunity to reduce energy costs, promote economic competitiveness and innovation, and promote responsible resource use. Maine currently exports $5 billion per year from the state economy to import fossil fuels, while abundant local energy resources remain untapped and our buildings remain inefficient. We have a chance to keep our energy dollars in state by investing in an energy future that will fuel a 21st-century economy: one that is dynamic, competitive, and clean.
Mainers, including fishermen, farmers, University of Maine scientists, policymakers, business owners, individuals, and families recognize that a changing climate poses significant risks to Maine’s economy and environment. Many aspects of our economy and segments of our population remain vulnerable, not only to climate change but also to unaffordable energy, housing, and transportation. Maine has the opportunity to better harness its resourcefulness and entrepreneurial capacity to build a forward-looking economy.
For that to happen, we call on Maine’s political, business, and municipal leaders to come together to act anew. We endorse six guiding principles that should guide development of specific solutions. These may not be entirely new ideas—most Mainers might embrace them intuitively—but they deserve focused attention now as the foundation upon which new policies and programs can be designed and implemented.
1. Maine must act to benefit from significant energy transitions under way around the world.
As the cost of renewable and clean energy technologies drop rapidly, homeowners, businesses, utilities, and governments around the region and entire world have shifted their investment strategies to these systems. Businesses and governments see a future in clean energy because they no longer need to choose “cheap” or “clean”; they can have both. Maine is not keeping pace as states all around us head down this path, but we can still benefit from this energy transition if we act now with the right policies and investments.
2. Maine’s economy is tied to its environment, a connection that is part of our history and the opportunities ahead.
Whether we consider an aging workforce, the need to modernize infrastructure, or improving public health, the challenges we face are interrelated. Energy issues cut across them. Maine’s economy depends on a clean environment, and a strong economy helps us protect the health of Maine people and our environment. Maine’s advantage and opportunities to create jobs come in part from abundant local energy resources that can increase prosperity and sustainability. Sound clean energy development creates large, long-term environmental and health benefits and sometimes smaller local impacts that must be managed.
3. Climate change is causing Maine people to experience significant disruptions in their daily lives and bottom line. They want practical ways to do their part to ensure a safe climate for Maine people today and in the future.
Maine’s established goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are aligned with sound science, and consistent with goals being set by cities, states, major corporations, and the international community. These goals include reducing emissions 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Maine will thrive and be competitive if we recognize climate disruption and our policies are designed to achieve these long-term carbon reduction goals.
4. Innovation and competitive markets offer the fundamental solutions to our energy challenges and take advantage of Maine’s entrepreneurial and resourceful spirit.
Our creativity and work ethic are hallmarks of our history. The private sector can make efficient investments and will provide the lowest-cost solutions if we establish clear policies and programs that are stable over the long-term. To the greatest extent possible, our policies should focus on outcomes and fundamental objectives, not pick individual technologies. With that policy foundation, Maine entrepreneurs will drive the clean energy solutions that create jobs.
5. Maine needs a long-term energy plan that benefits all Mainers, rural and urban, and across income levels.
Maine people want control of their future and the means to thrive in their communities. An energy transition that does not account for fairness and equity risks leaving some behind. Through policy and market solutions, a smooth transition is possible for people across all income levels, in all corners of the state, and for all types of businesses. Energy policy solutions must be intentionally designed to help those who pay higher shares of their income on energy benefit from this transition. Likewise we should identify strategies that benefit rural Maine and take advantage of its unique opportunities.
6. Mainers are concerned about the cost of energy. Reducing energy costs is one of many important objectives for greater prosperity and quality of life in Maine.
Energy efficiency is the foundation for lowering energy costs. Wind and solar have become some of the lowest-cost energy resources, and a long-term strategy of encouraging their development has helped drive costs lower. We should carefully consider all long-term costs and benefits of energy choices, not just short-term market prices. Maine needs high-quality analysis and solutions, and should recognize we will always have limited control over energy supplied from outside our state and region.