GrowSmart Maine Testifies in Favor of LD 1649, “An Act to Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development”

Testimony of Nancy Smith, Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine in support of LD 1649

“An Act to Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development”

March 16, 2015

Senator Woodsome, Representative Dion and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology, my name is Nancy Smith and I am the Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine. We are a statewide non-partisan, membership-based organization working to improve Maine’s economy, protect its distinctive character and communities, and enhance our state’s quality places. We believe this bill makes significant headway in achieving these goals. I believe this is one of the most important bills of the 127th Legislative session because it offers the potential to strengthen Maine’s economy while supporting our communities and environment.

GrowSmart Maine strongly supports this bill because it provides the necessary structure and certainty for Maine businesses, residents and government agencies as they invest in solar production to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, which also reduces some of the $5 billion that leaves Maine each year in the purchase of fossil fuels. Creating our own energy here is a powerful economic development strategy.

We support the bill because of these strengths:

  • We realize there is some concern with transitioning away from net metering as outlined in the bill, but this is a move GrowSmart Maine fully supports because it creates a fair, sustainable method of payment that works for all ratepayers. Market-based rates will be set to offer a fair and predictable rate needed to justify the significant investment required for solar production. The rate structure also recognizes the expectation of reduced investment needed as technology and demand improve. Within the language of the bill, the standard buyer is required to sell or use this energy “in a manner that maximizes the value of this portfolio of resources to all ratepayers” (p 5 lines 4&5). This strategy makes good sense for all Mainers.
  • Removing the nine-owner limit from community solar opens this ownership opportunity to more Mainers.
  • It is also important to note the process by which this bill was created. The PUC-led stakeholder group met over a six-month period as charged in a legislative resolve from last session.   The diverse participants took seriously their charge to develop consensus recommendations for state policy. This is an ideal method for developing significant policy, and the level of commitment deserves acknowledgement and respect as this Committee considers LD 1649.

GrowSmart Maine looks at this issue from a land use perspective and supports an amendment offer by Maine Farmland Trust to address the potential loss of productive farmland if solar farms are not located strategically. We fully support Section 7 of this bill, which calls for gathering of information related to placement of solar farms on brownfields and impervious surfaces so this committee can consider further action in 2019. Let’s work now to reduce the loss of farmland as we seek to expand the production of solar energy on appropriate sites in Maine.

A strong affirmative report out of this committee will deliver a message to the full Legislature that this bill provides significant policy improvements for Maine. This is your chance to create a national model of legislation that will benefit your current constituents as well as Mainers for generations to come.