Testimony in Support of LD 1431, An Act Requiring the Public Utilities Commission to Adopt Rules Promoting Renewable Energy
Senator Lawrence, Representative Zeigler, members of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, my name is Jack Shapiro, and I am the Climate and Clean Energy Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM has been working for more than 60 years to protect, restore, and conserve Maine’s environment, on behalf of our 25,000 members and supporters. I’m here today to testify in support of LD 1431, An Act Requiring the Public Utilities Commission to Adopt Rules Promoting Renewable Energy
This testimony focuses on two particular provisions in the sponsor’s amendment, sections five and seven. These sections close two loopholes in Maine’s renewable energy portfolio standard.
Maine’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) serves two purposes. First, it ensures that we are continually increasing the proportion of Maine’s electricity consumption served by renewable energy so we can displace expensive and polluting fossil fuels and help avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Second, it provides a revenue stream for renewable energy producers through the sale of renewable energy credits, or RECs.
It stands to reason that it is vital that this accounting and this incentive only include truly renewable energy. Right now, two sources of non-renewable energy are still included in Maine’s RPS: Burning municipal solid waste (MSW), or waste-to-energy, and landfill gas. This bill rightfully removes these two resources from Maine’s renewable energy portfolio standards.
Municipal solid waste—our daily household and commercial trash—is made of finite resources that needed significant energy to create and ship to a disposal facility. When burned, these resources are destroyed, and they do not naturally renew. The combustion process generates air pollution along with the heat used to make electricity. Plastic is a particularly troubling fuel source since it’s made from fossil fuels. Methane from decomposing garbage is similarly finite.
If we are going to be burning trash in Maine, then capturing energy should be the required best practice for this disposal option. Capturing methane at landfills also must be required — especially since methane, pound for pound, is a more dangerous climate pollutant than carbon dioxide — and energy should be captured here as well. But neither should be considered a renewable resource receiving incentives.
Our state’s energy policies should not be used to make disposal of waste at a landfill or waste-to-energy facility more attractive. Doing so is counterproductive to the purpose of our renewable energy policies, and it negatively impacts our ability to make the economics work in favor of waste reduction and recycling in our state and prevent us from ever reaching our goals in those areas.
We ask that the Committee vote Ought to Pass on LD 1431, and I’m happy to answer any questions that you have.