Radio Address: Gratwick says it's time to embrace our solar energy future

Posted: April 15, 2016 | Senator Gratwick, Weekly Radio Address

This weekend, I’ll be in Downtown Bangor, watching hundreds of paddlers cross the finish line of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, just as they’ve done for fifty years.

I wish I were going to be there with them in the water, as I’ve been many times in the past. Instead, I and the hundreds of other spectators will be enjoying the forecasted 70-degree day, and the warmth of our life-giving sun. As I look forward to it, I can’t help but imagine all the energy we could be creating on this sunny day.

Hi, this is Sen. Geoff Gratwick from Bangor. Thanks for tuning in.

Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor.

Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor.

On warm, sunny days like the one we’re expecting this weekend, I often find myself thinking about how lucky we are to live in Maine. Our state’s natural beauty and quality of place are envied by people all over the world.

Those qualities, however, are at risk from the effects of climate change. Ocean warming and acidification threaten to decimate our heritage fishing industries. Our forests are changing. There are countless other examples of the dangers posed by climate change.

We know that we have to take action to avert climate catastrophe. Among other things, that includes moving away from fossil fuel.

Unfortunately, despite our history of leading the way on clean energy, Maine is currently dead last in our region for solar energy production and solar industry jobs. We know we can do better.

That’s why this week, I joined a bipartisan coalition of senators and representatives who supported LD 1649, a bill that will increase solar energy production in Maine.

This bill will develop roughly 200 megawatts of solar energy capacity. That’s enough to power 32,000 Maine homes.

The bill will alter the regulatory environment for solar production as well. It will create incentives to ramp up development of solar energy at all levels, from rooftop solar to large, grid-scale solar farms. The end result will be decreased energy costs for all Maine ratepayers. It will also allow municipalities, neighborhoods and other groups of individuals to band together for solar production — allowing regular people to “go green” together, even if they can’t do it alone.

This bill will sustain 300 jobs that already exist in Maine’s solar industry. It will also create 650 to 800 new jobs. That’s 1,000 Mainers who will be employed building our clean energy future one solar panel at a time.

This bill is the first step toward building this future. That is what I, as an elected official, came to Augusta to do. WIth bipartisan support, the bill’s next stop will be Gov. LePage’s desk. I hope he’ll do the right thing for Maine’s environment, people and economy.

This is Senator Geoff Gratwick. Thanks for listening.