It was four years ago when newly elected Gov. Janet Mills set the ambitious goal of getting 100% of Maine’s electricity from renewable power sources by 2050.

Now in her second term, Mills wants the state to get there even sooner, by 2040.

And state energy officials and clean energy advocates say the pace of solar and wind power development and the high cost of electricity from natural gas-fired plants mean the new target is both achievable and necessary.

“There’s been a number of different factors that support accelerating that goal,” Dan Burgess, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, said on Wednesday.

Maine is over-reliant on natural gas for generating electricity, something made painfully clear because of rising prices driven by global factors outside the state’s control, he said. “As a region, more than half of our electricity comes from natural gas-fired power plants and we’re seeing the (cost of) over-reliance on that now over the last two years.”

Mills set the 2040 target date during State of the Budget address Tuesday, saying she will submit a bill requiring 100% of the electricity consumed in Maine to come from renewable energy sources a decade sooner than previously planned.


“The time has come to be bolder,” Mills said in the speech to a joint session of the Legislature. “By accelerating our pace toward 100% clean energy, we will reduce costs for Maine people, create new jobs and career opportunities that strengthen our economy, and protect us from the ravages of climate change.”

Republican leaders in the Legislature, which will be asked in the coming weeks to make the target state law, are skeptical of the change and the ultimate cost to electricity users.


“I think it’s a great idea if you hate poor people,” said House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor. “Otherwise coming up with arbitrary goals before affordable alternatives exist is dangerous. “

Mills’ announcement comes as other states also are speeding up their timelines for 100% clean electricity. Minnesota recently set a goal of 2040, while New Jersey set a goal of 2035. Some states hope to get there sooner, including Rhode Island, which set a goal of 2033.

Accelerating Maine’s renewable electricity goal will require a law change. The current state law requires 80% renewable energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050, and the Maine Public Utilities Commission acts in accordance with state statute. The goals refer to the electricity purchased and used by customers in Maine, not the electricity that’s made by Maine-based power generators who feed into the regional grid.


Failure to meet those goals comes with consequences for electricity providers, not distributors like Central Maine Power, Burgess said. “The electricity providers have to comply or they have to make penalty payments,” he said.

No single initiative or renewable source will get the state to 100% renewable energy, Burgess said, and there is no estimate of the public funding that will be needed to make it happen.

Nearly half of the electricity consumed in Maine – 48% – is now generated by renewable sources, including hydropower dams, solar arrays and wind turbines. Mills said that number is expected to grow to 53% by the end of this year.

Nearly all of the non-renewable production comes from natural gas-fired power generators.

The state’s energy plan identifies solar as the key to meeting its renewable energy goals, but wind power and hydropower play a role, too.

Through 2022, Maine had 557 megawatts of solar installed. That’s an increase of 192 megawatts, the vast majority of which – 163 megawatts – comes from smaller distributed solar installations, according to the Governor’s Energy Office.


Wind projects also are moving forward. The PUC recently approved a Northern Maine Renewable Energy transmission line that would connect a proposed 1,000 megawatt wind farm – consisting of 179 turbines – to the New England Energy grid. That approval came after Massachusetts agreed to shoulder 40% of the costs.

The typical Maine ratepayer would see about a $1 increase in their utility bill, but that cost would be offset by the economic and environmental upside, the PUC said.

And the University of Maine’s floating wind turbine project also is moving forward, after federal officials gave preliminary approval to the state’s request to lease a roughly 15-square-mile site about 45 miles off the coast of Portland.

Mills signed a bill last year directing the PUC to negotiate a purchase agreement for 144 megawatts of power from that project.


Environmental groups praised the governor’s accelerated timeline for switching to 100% renewables.


Jack Shapiro, climate and clean energy director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the new goal is “100% realistic,” given the state’s existing portfolio of hydropower, the rapid increase of large- and small-scale solar projects, and new wind farms moving forward.

“We’re really excited to see it,” Shapiro said in an interview Wednesday. “Maine clearly has a ton of renewable energy potential.”

In addition to stabilizing price volatility that comes with relying on natural gas for electricity, Kathleen Meil, senior director of policy and partnerships with the Maine Conservation Voters, said accelerating the transition to renewables also will help mitigate the impact of climate change.

“2022 was the second hottest year on record for the Gulf of Maine – an important reminder that when it comes to our climate goals, the stakes are high and getting higher,” Meil said in an email. “Halfway through Maine Won’t Wait, the state’s four-year plan for climate action, Maine is rising to the challenge.”

Maine Conservation Voters Executive Director Maureen Drouin said Mills’ announcement shows “a rural state can take bold action to tackle the climate crisis while ensuring a fair and equitable economic transition for our communities.”

“By doubling funding for local climate action through the Community Resilience Partnership and setting a goal of developing legislation that will achieve 100% clean energy by 2040, the Mills administration is building a stronger, more resilient, and more equitable future for all Maine people,” Drouin said in a written statement Tuesday evening.

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