Maine ushered in a new era of climate action in 2019, with science-based clean-energy targets and policies that finally promised the mix of ambition and stability Maine people and businesses demand. Those policies set the tone for development of the state’s new Climate Action Plan, which brought hundreds of scientists, industry leaders, bipartisan local and state officials and engaged citizens together to address the effects of climate change on our state. Together, we committed to bring new sources of clean energy online quickly as we grow our economy and build more resilient communities.

This community solar project near Route 1 in Belfast is already built and scheduled to be in service soon, but Central Maine Power is unexpectedly indicating that the developer, SunRaise Investments of Portsmouth, N.H., will first need to spend an unspecified amount of money to fix voltage problems at the local substation. Photo courtesy of Greg M. Cooper

At least, we thought we did.

Last week, we learned that one company has the ability to scuttle a key component of Maine’s Climate Action Plan, increasing the amount of electricity generated by wind and solar power and jeopardize our clean-energy transition at a critical moment when investment, good jobs and the urgent need to transition to a clean-energy economy are of paramount importance.

In a stunning admission, Central Maine Power informed solar developers that its initial statements about how much it would cost solar projects to connect to the energy grid – costs that solar developers had already relied on for business investments in the millions – were incorrect and that an undisclosed number of projects would need to pay hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars more in order to connect to CMP’s transmission system.

In addition to undercutting these specific projects, the message it sends to the wider world is completely contrary to the message of Gov. Mills that Maine will be a leader in this transition, and instead sends a chilling message to future businesses looking to invest in Maine that it could be a risky bet. It is also a disservice to the many towns and local businesses that would be unable to realize significant energy savings and direct economic benefits from these solar projects.

CMP’s performance here is not only unacceptable and embarrassing as a simple matter of competence but also brings into question, again, whether the company will be an obstacle in helping Maine achieve the transition to clean renewable energy that is so crucial for our environment, our economy and our climate.

Maine law mandates that Maine must decrease greenhouse-gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 and must transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Gov. Mills has also set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. To meet these science-based targets, we need utilities that are willing and capable to embrace renewable-energy generation and work closely with the renewable-energy community and the Maine Public Utilities Commission to bring solar power online to deliver clean-energy benefits to Maine people, businesses and communities.

Unfortunately, CMP once again appears to not be up to the task. Renewable-energy developers have been struggling to finalize interconnection agreements with CMP for decades. This latest roadblock is part of a pattern that should not be ignored.

The Governor’s Energy Office and Maine PUC should step in quickly and address CMP’s complete failure here and at the same time reassure renewable-energy developers that Maine’s commitment to addressing climate change is more than mere lip service.

The PUC must open an investigation to determine how this happened. We need to understand why CMP’s initial interconnection numbers were wrong, why it took CMP so long to realize its mistake, when they found out about this mistake, how long it took to notify the affected parties and what the company plans to do to make it right. Time is of the essence. Maine’s clean-energy future is at stake.

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