by Darcie Moore, Times Record Staff
Times Record news story
The Natural Resources Council of Maine continues to fight for solar-friendly policies at the State House, aiming to reverse a new Maine Public Utilities Commission rule that threatens the future growth of solar power in Maine.
NRCM Senior Director of Advocacy Pete Didisheim said at a presentation last week at Topsham Public Library that the organization is involved in promoting solar energy, a renewable energy industry that has fallen behind in Maine.
“As some people know, this has been a challenge with our current governor who, for whatever crazy reason, is ideologically and firmly opposed to supporting solar, which doesn’t make any sense,” Didisheim said.
Maine has a very good solar resource, he said, “but unfortunately, we’re like in last place.”
Didisheim said others in the Northeast are investing in solar power. Massachusetts has thousands of solar installation jobs.
The NRCM developed a solar policy last year that had broad support from stakeholders. It passed through the House and Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage. Didisheim said it came back to the House but fell two votes short of a veto override.
“The bill we were looking at last year would have created 600 jobs,” Didisheim said.
“We’re now coming forward with a new solar bill,” he said.
There are about a dozen solar-related bills proposed, Didisheim said, but the NRCM is focusing on a bill sponsored by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham.
That bill is designed to protect and expand access to solar power in Maine. According to NRCM, it would increase the state’s energy independence and lead to hundreds of new jobs by creating stability and predictability in the solar market.
However, last week the Maine Public Utilities Commission released its ruling rolling back net metering in the state. Net metering provides residential solar generators a credit on their electric bill for excess electricity that they put back into the power grid.
Meanwhile, Didisheim said the cities of Portland and South Portland have decided to move ahead with large solar facilities at their closed landfills. Maine residents have been very involved in this issue because many believe solar should be part of the energy equation in Maine.
He said solar is moving forward in spite of the pressure against it from LePage and the PUC, “and that’s a good thing.”