Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor), Ania Wright and Sara Lowgren (far left), youth climate leaders and students at College of the Atlantic, join Governor Janet Mills as she signs LD 658. Sponsored by Hubbell, the measure puts Maine on a path to triple in-state renewable energy generation by 2030. PHOTO COURTESY OF HOUSE DEMOCRATIC OFFICE

Energy bill sails through

AUGUSTA — A bipartisan bill from Rep. Brian Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor) putting Maine on a path to triple in-state renewable energy generation by 2030 is now law.

“Our state has abundant potential from wind, biomass, solar and hydropower,” Hubbell said, “but until now we have lacked a comprehensive vision for sustainable energy development. With a thoughtful, long-term plan, we can pursue energy independence, community resilience and economic prosperity for Maine.”

LD 658 directs the Governor’s Energy Office to prepare a plan by which the state can “become a net exporter of energy” by the year 2030, producing more energy than is used in the state’s residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors. The result will provide the direction necessary to reach the 30-year carbon emissions reduction goals in Governor Janet Mills’ recently announced climate action plan.

The bill “received unanimous support throughout,” Hubbell said.

“What was key to the bill’s success was being able to frame it in terms of economic opportunity.” Renewable energy technology has come so far, Hubbell explained, that “we don’t have to talk about subsidies any more.”

Saving the state costly and environmentally risky import of fossil fuels was where legislators found common ground, Hubbell said, and the bill was co-sponsored by Republicans such as Rep. Harold Stewart (R-Presque Isle). “It was a good moment when there is just common interest in moving the state forward,” Hubbell said.

During a public hearing, the bill received support from such diverse groups and corporations as the Industrial Energy Consumer Group, Sierra Club, Emera Maine, and local environmental advocacy group A Climate to Thrive.

The bill also found support with the student group Maine Youth for Climate Justice. Ania Wright, a student at College of the Atlantic and member of that group, said, “Though we may be a small state, we can send a big message nationally and internationally with ambitious legislation like LD658. By tripling our renewable energy and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, we will show other states and countries that change is possible.”

After being passed unanimously by the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, Mills signed the measure Friday.

A similar bill, Rep. Chloe Maxmin’s (D-Chelsea) LD 1282, which would create a Green New Deal for Maine, is still being debated in the Legislature.

“The irony [is that] the emissions reductions [proposed in LD 1282] were much less ambitious than the ones proposed in my bill,” Hubbell said, adding that the attention drawn by the proposed Green New Deal worked in his favor getting his bill through. However, he said, both bills are important in their own way.

Of the proposed Green New Deal, Hubbell said, “It’s really focused on the climate justice and social equity. I think that’s really important.”

Hubbell’s newly passed bill focuses on the long-term goal of the state producing more energy than it uses, which will have both environmental and economic benefits, he said.

“On the environmental side, if we are indeed serious about curtailing carbon emissions, we need to identify what combination of renewable energy sources and energy conservation efforts can match the needs of Maine citizens and industry,” Hubbell said. “On the economic side, our state needs the jobs and economic benefit that will result from producing energy here instead of importing it.”

Maine currently spends more than $5 billion annually on energy, $3.4 billion of which is spent on imported petroleum. The bill calls for offsetting the full $5 billion value of energy imported, making the state a net energy exporter within 10 years.

Hubbell is serving his fourth term in the Maine House. He is a member of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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