The Maine Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) and Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future (GOPIF) last week released a report detailing plans to expand Maine’s clean economy workforce, as well as support innovation and training opportunities in renewable power generation and energy efficiency. The report, Strengthening Maine’s Clean Energy Economy, will be incorporated into the Maine Climate Council’s four-year Climate Action Plan expected to be released on December 1, 2020.
Sprung from the 2019 public law that requires the development of a clean energy economy transition plan, as well as Maine’s 10-year economic plan that recommends capitalization on advancements in solar, offshore wind, energy storage, and biofuel technologies, the report provides specific actions to advance Maine’s clean energy sector in the following four categories:
- Policy and Program Development
- Workforce Development and Recruitment
- Cleantech Innovation
- Equity and Just Transition
Policy and Program Development
The report advises that Maine must have policies and programs specifically targeted toward creating certainty for and high-quality jobs within the clean energy sector, by:
- implementing clean energy policies that are clear and consistent, and that specifically focus on creating quality jobs;
- monitoring and adjusting programs to accomplish clean energy and climate goals, though the report is noticeably silent on efforts to remove barriers to permitting; and
- utilizing and expanding incentives, grants, and financing options for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
Workforce Development and Recruitment
This category “is the key component of Maine’s transition to a clean energy economy,” the report advises that Maine must attract and develop a clean energy industry workforce by:
- supporting and promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM), Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Maine’s community colleges;
- promoting and encouraging training opportunities and industry participation;
- prompting industry to provide training or apprenticeship programs and job opportunities;
- supporting existing programs and incentives, and developing new programs, to incentivize growth in the clean energy sector;
- attracting companies and workers, conducting market research, developing innovative solutions, and creating jobs through a diverse marketing plan; and
- launching a workforce initiative (led by the GEO and in partnership with the private sector) that: (a) creates an online database and resource for connecting job and training opportunities in clean energy with potential hires to streamline the job search process, and (b) establishes ongoing stakeholder coordination between industry and educational and training organizations.
The report acknowledges ongoing innovative energy solutions (such as the New England Aqua Ventus offshore floating turbine, power-to-gas pilot projects, and advancements of integrated hydrokinetics from river and tidal currents), and advises that “the state should not shy away from pilot projects, but find ways to support them cost-effectively as new technologies take time and money to evolve,” by:
- increasing investment in cleantech innovation and expanding Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to develop and commercialize innovative clean energy products and services;
- encouraging private and public investment dollars to go toward products and services that advance the state’s climate and clean energy goals;
- investing in broadband expansion to support business success and growth, as well as to provide the platform for innovative clean energy and grid management solutions; and
- achieving the state’s goal of 95% broadband deployment by 2025 and striving to serve 99% of the state by 2030 with high-speed access.
Equity and Just Transition
The report advises that the advancement of Maine’s clean energy sector must also ensure equity of job opportunities, affordable energy, and public health benefits across the state, as well as consideration of those who may face adverse impacts from this transition, by:
- including equity and cost considerations in the development of energy programs, particularly targeted at low to moderate income households, to aid in decreasing overall energy burdens and shift towards low-carbon heat and energy sources;
- supporting policy solutions that ensure fair distribution of benefits within the state; and
- identifying opportunities to create programs that will assist energy companies in transitioning to the clean energy economy.
Acknowledging the economic disruption of COVID-19, these strategies are intended to recover and grow Maine’s economy through targeted policies, innovation, and investment in renewable energy fields, which are some of the fastest growing sectors in the nation. The report highlights the potential of the clean energy sector to forestall the projected decline in Maine employment over the coming decade.