To the Editor:
You may not be hearing much news out of the State House these days, but that doesn’t mean that all is quiet in Augusta.
Many of us are serving on commissions studying complex issues to make the best of our off-session time. I know I’ll be interested to hear the findings of the commission studying transportation funding, knowing that pothole season will be upon us soon enough. Maybe we can finally designate a sustainable funding stream for our roads and bridges.
As a member of the Commission To Study the Economic, Environmental and Energy Benefits of Energy Storage to the Maine Electricity Industry, I’ve been meeting with fellow legislators and experts from the industrial, academic, environmental, and business sectors.
Energy storage will be a critical component of our grid as we add more intermittent renewable energy sources — such as the exciting new solar array at MDI High School and municipal solar in communities like Ellsworth, Trenton and Lamoine hoping to join in on the economic and environmental benefits.
When the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, we need to capture and store any excess energy produced to use when the weather is less favorable. We can also use energy storage to reduce our demand during peak hours, when electricity supply is the most expensive, thus saving money for ratepayers in Maine.
Regardless of the technology, storage will be a part of our clean energy future. That’s why we’ve been studying the economic, regulatory and permitting barriers to storage deployment in Maine. It’s also critical that we ensure storage is safely sited and that we have a plan for decommissioning, especially for battery storage.
While our commission has not answered all of our questions, we will provide recommendations to the Energy, Utility and Technology (EUT) Committee, including a request for a Maine-specific cost-benefit analysis. The work we’ve been doing this fall will likely result in legislation to move Maine forward with storage, especially since four commission members also serve on the EUT Committee.
Not only can storage help us make the most of local clean energy generation, but it can also help us keep our lights on. Imagine a community that could generate, store, and distribute its own electricity when its supply was cut off due to a storm event. Instead of waiting days for power, they might get it back within hours, after local lines had been serviced. I bet we could all think of some local communities who might want to become an “island” in this way!