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Maine Lawmakers Put Biomass On Hold; Solar Inches Forward

Maine lawmakers are giving solar farms a boost, but have chosen for now to put legislation promoting biomass energy on hold. (Flckr/World Bank)
Maine lawmakers are giving solar farms a boost, but have chosen for now to put legislation promoting biomass energy on hold. (Flckr/World Bank)
June 12, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Faced with key decisions on the best way to proceed on energy sources for Maine, state legislators have put off a bill to promote biomass, and moved forward on a measure to support solar power.

Dylan Voorhees, climate and clean energy director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the measure approved Friday increases the number of participants in solar farms, including consumers, from 10 to 200. At the same time, Voorhees said the bill shortcuts actions that would roll back net metering as a revenue source for Mainers who install renewable energy.

“[It] stops the Public Utilities Commission from going forward with a very extreme proposal to weaken net metering in the state,” Voorhees said, "which is important for people to be able to affordably invest in solar in their homes or business."

The Joint Energy and Utilities Committee voted 8-5 to move the solar bill forward. Gov. LePage opposed it; he supports the biomass bill that was put on hold.

Voorhees said the committee carried over two renewable energy bills, including a measure that would promote biomass through new, long-term contracts.

"They recognize it as a vastly complicated issue,” he said. "One Republican lawmaker dissented and wanted to kill the bill right now, but general sentiment was, 'It's too late, this is too complicated; we'll have to come back to this next year."

Voorhees said his group isn't opposed to biomass or wood waste as a power source, but is simply looking for an even playing field with legislation for solar.

"They actually have a lot in common, but the governor's just wildly opposed to one of them because it has solar in it,” Voorhies said. "And he actually is a proponent of the other one, because it's burning biomass to create power."

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME