Statement of Dylan Voorhees, NRCM Clean Energy Director
“It is extremely disappointing that the governor’s opposition to solar energy is holding Maine back on the opportunity for more jobs and cleaner air. His rejection of LD 1252—aided today by his legislative allies in the Senate—means Maine will likely fall further behind in solar energy investments and creation of good quality, clean energy jobs.
“LD 1252 was a modest bill to advance solar energy that won bipartisan support in the Legislature, as well as support from many small businesses and residents. Maine brand-name businesses like Oakhurst and Lamey-Wellehan supported this bill and are investing in solar to cut energy costs.
“This bill would have fostered nearly $25 million in private investment in Maine, and supported scores of local solar jobs that could never be outsourced. In addition, it would have provided funding for additional installations of oil-saving heat pumps in low-income homes.
“The governor’s rhetoric on this bill does not match reality. If high electric rates are a concern, then it is essential that we change course from building an increasingly expensive transmission grid only to meet summer peak demand (and boost utility profits). Rooftop solar can help cut that demand and reduce costs borne by all ratepayers. That’s why solar is booming in states around us, and why Maine is now at real risk of continuing to pay more in rates. If heating oil costs are a concern, then solar is part of the solution, too. Main street companies like the Bucksport Motor Inn have used solar to slash their oil consumption for hot water heating.
“The governor and his allies used the tiny, immediate cost of this bill to justify a do-nothing strategy that will cost Maine far more.
“We appreciate the leadership of the energy committee chairs, Senator Cleveland and Representative Hobbins, as well as bill sponsor Representative Morrison, who all worked hard to pass this bill. We also appreciate the efforts of Representative Harvell to broaden the benefits of—and support for—the bill.
“In the end, the governor’s allies in the Senate let his veto rule the day—including both of the Minority leaders, Senator Thibodeau and Senator Katz, who voted against the bill.”
The governor vetoed LD 1252 last Friday (April 11), and the Maine House voted 105-41 Monday (April 14) to override the veto. Today the Senate failed to reach the 2/3 necessary to override the veto, voting 22-13 in favor of the bill.
To cap an outpouring of support for solar energy this session, on April 9th, small businesses gathered at the State House to urge Governor LePage to allow the bill to become law after it was enacted by the Legislature. More than 20 small businesses signed a letter to the governor saying that the bill would allow more small businesses to invest in money-saving solar energy and support more good paying, clean energy jobs.
LD 1252 would have reinstated the solar energy program at Efficiency Maine, which provides rebates to homeowners and businesses to help lower the up-front cost of rooftop solar energy arrays.
Last year the state solar program ran out of funds, leaving Maine the only New England state with no policies specifically designed to help people invest in solar on their homes and businesses, and leaving hundreds of Maine solar jobs in jeopardy. LD 1252 was enacted by the Legislature by strong votes in each body (House 109-30, Senate 22-12). It would provide one million dollars per year for 2.5 years for the program.
During passage in the Legislature, the bill was modified by an amendment from Representative Lance Harvell (R-Farmington). This amendment allows the fund re-established for solar to also be used to help low-income Mainers install heat pumps.
Solar power is the fastest growing energy technology in the world, due in large part to rapidly falling prices. Last year alone, the United States installed enough solar energy to power one million homes. But Maine is falling behind. The state lags behind on installed solar per capita, and on per capita solar jobs.