Senator Chipman, Representative Tipping, and members of the Committee on Taxation, my name is Sophie Janeway and I am the Climate and Clean Energy Outreach Coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s leading environmental advocacy group with more than 20,000 members and supporters. I appreciate the opportunity to testify in support of LD 1430, “An Act To Create Tax Equity among Renewable Energy Investments.”
Renewable energy provides many benefits to society, including reducing climate-changing carbon pollution; reducing dependence on fossil fuels; creating jobs; and lowering energy costs for Maine municipalities, businesses, and residents. Partly because of the unpredictability of renewable energy policies in Maine, particularly regarding solar energy, Maine is in last place in New England for solar installations. This has kept us from capturing more of the benefits that are being realized in neighboring states. We support LD 1430 because it will help provide the predictability and consistency that are so essential to guide investment decisions in renewable energy systems.
Right now, most towns across the state lack the resources and information needed to adequately assess and value solar panels. This results in inconsistent valuation and unfair taxation across the state. This inconsistency hinders solar adoption and hampers Maine’s ability to capture the benefits of solar energy.
LD 1430 would allow all municipalities to capture the benefits of solar and would not unfairly penalize individuals and businesses that wish to install renewable energy. The bill would:
- direct the Maine Revenue Service to prepare guidance for the valuation of renewable energy facilities by Maine municipalities;
- enact a tax exemption for renewable energy installations, and
- ensure that businesses that make capital investments in solar energy equipment qualify for the Business Equipment Tax Exemption (BETE) program.
Many Maine towns exempt solar installations from property assessments. Other towns have adopted varying formulas, in some cases resulting in new and unfair barriers for people and businesses who wish to install solar on their own property. In at least York and Brunswick, inconsistent and contested valuations have resulted in time consuming and costly legal action. We can clarify this inconsistency for the benefit of all Maine people, businesses and towns in advance of it becoming a more widespread problem.
Solar energy offers an excellent opportunity for businesses to lower their costs. Businesses in Kingfield, Wiscasset and Wells, for example, invested in solar energy under the assumption that they would receive BETE, but they have not. In Kingfield, one business in particular received BETE one year but did not in the following year. Passage of LD 1430 would address this inconsistency and would be welcomed by Maine businesses.
It’s important that we act now. As Maine and the country transition to renewable energy, Maine can set ourselves up for success by having structures in place to capture the many benefits of this transition.
LD 1430 is an important part of providing consistency for Maine towns, businesses, and residents that want to capture the benefits of solar. NRCM strongly supports this legislation and urges the committee to pass this bill.
I appreciate the opportunity to testify and am happy to take any questions. Thank you.