Statement of Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine
“Today, the Maine House (105-40) and Senate (29-6) voted overwhelmingly in favor of a compromise solar bill to help build a prosperous future for Maine people through encouraging clean, locally produced solar power and the good jobs it delivers. The measure was crafted by Republicans and Democrats, solar installers, business people, consumer interests, and diverse other organizations working together, and garnered more than enough support to override an expected veto from Governor LePage.
“A final amendment, which replaced last week’s Senate amendment, came from Rep. Lance Harvell (R-Farmington), a member of the Energy and Utilities Committee. The amendment allows a small reduction in net metering credits for new solar customers in 2018 and 2019.
“As amended, the bill also prohibits fees for solar electricity generated and consumed on-site, and it expands community solar, increasing the limit on the number households or businesses that can join any given solar project by tenfold (from 10 to 100). The bill also requires the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to complete an analysis and forward recommendations to the Legislature in 2019.
“Passage of this common-sense solar bill will move Maine forward and prevent the costly and harmful new PUC rule from going into effect at the end of the year. This is a strong rejection of the Public Utilities Commission’s terrible rule.
“The Legislature devoted extensive time and effort to preventing the PUC’s costly, harmful rule from taking effect. Almost all lawmakers agreed that letting the rule move forward would be a mistake for electricity buyers and for Maine solar workers, businesses and users, too.
“The Legislature’s next step will be to override the governor’s anticipated veto of this reasonable solar compromise. If Governor LePage chooses to veto the solar bill, and his veto was upheld, there would real, painful consequences on-the-ground throughout Maine, as good jobs would be lost and Maine would burdened with a backward energy supply.
“The bill requires the PUC to complete an analysis of solar options, and to forward recommendations to the Legislature in 2019. Without an analysis of how Maine can best benefit from solar power, encourage solar, and ensure electricity users get the most benefit, Maine is groping in the dark.
“It’s time to come out of the dark ages and modernize Maine’s electricity systems to take advantage of solar, which is increasingly practical, competitive, and growing.
“While solar is booming elsewhere, Maine has been largely sitting on the sidelines and our economy, workers, and bottom lines are losing out.
“The less solar Mainers install, the more money Central Maine Power (CMP) makes. CMP opposed the amended bill and was the only entity apart from the Governor’s Office to testify against all three solar bills considered this year. CMP is hard at work trying to distract Mainers from the hundreds of millions of dollars in profits it makes as it spends ratepayers’ money to build more and more costly transmission lines.
“CMP is benefitting from Governor LePage’s loud and forceful attack on solar because it distracts Maine legislators and citizens from the real electricity cost driver in Maine: increased spending on new transmission lines. The embarrassing truth for the utilities is that the rates we all must pay for transmission and distribution have risen 80% since 2007.
“Because CMP is a monopoly focused on corporate profits, Maine has estabished an Office of the Public Advocate to speak on behalf of those of us who pay power bills. This office has conducted the only credible analysis of LD 1504, and they have concluded that the initiative will save all ratepayers money.
“Unfortunately, the governor’s impressions about solar are stuck in the 20th century. LePage has obviously not kept up with solar issues and technology, and while he favors some energy sources over others his reasoning is unclear. Although years ago you couldn’t say this, now solar is one of the cheaper forms of energy out there. Prices have come down so much that in states with fair solar policies, investments are taking off.”
• Solar-energy jobs are growing 12 times as fast as the US economy.
• U.S. Solar Jobs Jumped Almost 25% In the Past Year
• Solar Employs More People In U.S. Electricity Generation Than Oil, Coal And Gas Combined
“Here’s hoping a brighter future for Maine lies ahead for solar energy and the jobs that come with it.”