Evan Zarkadas – “A Great Learning and Professional Experience”

Being a part of the Maine Policy Scholars was a great honor and accomplishment. As a student that cares about Maine and policy issues, the program allowed me to answer professionally, through my own original research, a pressing policy question that our state is facing and is crucial for our future. Both the scholarship that was provided from the Maine Community Foundation and the process of compiling a professional research document in the form of a memo to the legislature has been a great learning and professional experience. Throughout the process of researching and advocating for energy issues in Maine, it was extremely rewarding to know that I had the opportunity to make a statement to the Maine State Legislature and encourage them to see energy issues from a different perspective. This project provided me with the chance to learn about something that I genuinely care about regarding Maine’s future as well as giving me the potential to have my research go beyond simply an academic paper and move into the realm of a practical policy proposal. Knowing about this possibility throughout the process made me really grateful to be chosen as a 2019 Maine Policy Scholar. Being a part of a program that truly care about the future of the state was extremely rewarding and beneficial for my future as both a scholar and a knowledgeable citizen in the realm of facing policy issues challenging the future of the state of Maine.

Map of the state of Maine and proposed energy transmission lines coming from Canada

My research focused on Maine’s need to enhance its weak energy transmission system that is currently struggling with modernization and capacity insufficiency. More specifically, I was interested in learning how Maine’s energy development is restricted because of its grid and due to that fact it does not allow for the future integration of more renewable energy sources into the grid. The main reason for this is the weak and aging transmission infrastructure in place and the lack of government action to modernize and update the grid system. What I came to realize was that this is a problem for both our current renewable energy production that is restricted, but also for further renewable energy additions in the state. My conclusion, after this year-long research project, was that Maine needs to rethink its future and start talking about its energy transmission at the same importance and the same level as constructing new renewables and increasing the portfolio standards. The state needs to come up with solutions to allow existing and future renewable generators to deliver their supply to the market and into our current grid without curtailment and restricting their production. If this change happens, and Maine updates its grid, then the renewable energy production will increase more than any other state in New England. Further, the state will be able to sufficiently decrease its carbon footprint and establish an independent Made-In-Maine energy system. The urgency of this issue is so great that this is not something that we can think about in the future, it is about our future and the actions need to be taken now with utmost seriousness and the understanding that if we do not answer these issues we won’t be able to live up to our new energy standards. My goal for this project was that by being an advocate for energy transmission infrastructure and by sending a memo to the Governor then I would be able to make policymakers think about the future of our energy state, and give this proposal a little more consideration when it comes to the state’s future energy goals and make sure that when they have these conversations about our energy future they realize that the grid and the transmission must have an equal place in the discussions and future policies.