LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: 6/22/17
- Friday, June 16th – Outgoing Public Advocate Tim Schneider confirms that Failure to Pass LD1504 would increase rates to ratepayer – hurting both solar industry AND everyone who pays an electric bill, in his analysis of the Costs/Benefits of LD1504 (PDF Download).
- Tuesday, June 20th – The Maine Senate voted unanimously to pass LD 1504.
- Wednesday, June 21st – The Maine House votes 90-54 in favor of LD 1504 (Majority Report)
- Next steps – Maine Senate to consider amendment and then send bill back to Maine House (week of 6/19/17)
TELL YOUR LEGISLATOR: SAY YES TO SOLAR!
We Need Solar Jobs More than Ever, But Maine’s PUC is Intent on Killing Them!
This Portland Press Herald editorial put it in stark terms: Maine’s traditional industries are dying out, and we need new industries to replace them. The BRIGHT news is that the rising solar panel industry is creating jobs that can replace what we’ve lost from papermaking. Check out what the Portland Press Herald found when they looked into solar jobs.
Maine now has over 500 solar jobs, a growth of 73% in only one year – and growth despite the Legislature’s failure to pass solar legislation in 2016 that would have added 800 more solar jobs to Maine’s economy. Across the country, over 250,000 people are employed in solar – three times the number of coal workers – and Maine is lagging far behind neighboring states in this prosperity.
In a moment when Maine’s economy desperately needs solar jobs, Maine’s Public Utility Commission (PUC) has actually attacked solar. They are proposing a new solar tax on all the power you generate yourself. Could you imagine the grocery store charging you for growing your own tomatoes? That’s exactly what Maine’s power utilities want to do.
The only hope now is that Maine’s legislature can fix what the PUC has broken and override a veto from Governor Paul LePage who has been a staunch foe on renewable energy.
What is Going On Here?
Ignoring its own Value of Solar study and the directive of the legislature to develop policy to accelerate solar energy investments and projects in Maine, the Maine Public Utilities Commission has proposed a set of rules on net energy metering which would significantly weaken the economics of solar investments and slow down rather than accelerate the construction of solar projects.
Last year, an unprecedented coalition including solar installers, environmental groups, faith groups, labor groups, the Public Advocates Office, and Maine’s two utilities – CMP and Emera – united behind a comprehensive solar policy bill that ultimately failed to override Governor Paul LePage’s veto by only two votes.
That fateful turn set the fate of solar policy in Maine over to the unelected appointees of the Governor at the Public Utilities Commission. That Commission ignored the findings of their own report and has proposed a set of rules that would be disastrous to solar in Maine.
Legislators last year were reluctant to pass solar policy that would restore Maine’s leadership role in the region by uniting the interests of solar installers and the utility companies. Now, the least the Legislature can do is fix the PUC’s mistakes so that solar installers in Maine can compete in a stable policy environment and concentrate on growing their businesses instead of worrying about meddling from the Government.
Holly Noyes, a Solar Worker, Shares Her Story
Maine Needs Solar To Boost Our Economy and Save Our Environment
- Every year Mainers export $5 billion from the local economy to import fossil fuels from away. By investing in local solar infrastructure, we create good-paying jobs for Mainers, we keep our money in the local economy and we increase our energy security.
- Maine is dead last in New England in terms of solar energy adoption, and we have the highest per capita fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions in the region. We are the only state in New England without a strong solar policy to encourage investments. We need a pro-solar policy to unleash industry job creation–in Massachusetts, there are 10,000 solar industry workers compared to 300 in Maine.
- The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 75% over the last 10 years, creating a practical investment opportunity for all Mainers who want to save money and protect Maine’s pristine natural environment. But Mainers are holding off on these investments due to lack of clear policy signals out of Augusta for the past six years.
- Maine has an abundant solar resource that can be harnessed to save money and reduce pollution, producing both economic and environmental benefits for all Mainers. Every year Maine gets 30% more sunshine than Germany, a world leader in solar adoption–in fact, Maine’s annual solar generation potential is equal to Houston, TX, thanks to an abundance of cold, clear days which allow solar arrays to produce their peak harvest.
- The U.S. solar industry employs 3 times as many Americans as the coal mining industry – Over 200,000 Americans are employed in the solar industry today, up 20% from a year ago (source: National Solar Jobs Census http://www.thesolarfoundation.org/national/)
- Maine ranks 43rd nationally in solar jobs, with an estimated 400 employed. NH ranks 37th with 600 employed and Massachusetts ranks 2nd with 9,400 solar jobs
How Does Solar Support the Economy?
- Maine is falling far behind the region in solar jobs per capita, but we have many solar companies that are ready and eager to grow more and faster.
- Over 3,000 solar jobs are created each and every month in the US. This represents 3% of all professional and construction jobs created in the country.
- One in 78 new jobs created last year were solar jobs.
- In 2005, there were 15,000 solar jobs. There are now more than 200,000 solar jobs.
- There are 8,000 solar businesses in the U.S. All 50 states have employees in the industry.
- Rooftop solar creates well-paying local jobs that cannot be outsourced.
How Does Solar Support Consumers?
For over 100 years, utility companies have enjoyed a monopoly on the sale of electricity. This model has resulted in the creation of a large, centralized power grid, which made sense 50 years ago, but no longer does in the 21st century. Rooftop solar power is one of the first major threats to the utility model of solar, by offering the consumer the ability to generate their own electricity on-site to power all aspects of modern life – appliances, computing, heating, cooling, even transportation (thanks to electric cars).
By investing in solar, a homeowner, business, nonprofit organization, or municipality, can lock in a rate for electricity for 25+ years, without being subject to increasing electricity rate hikes which are a reality of being connected to the electricity grid.
Solar doesn’t just benefit the person who goes solar – by reducing strain on the electric grid, and reducing pollution out to the atmosphere, solar saves EVERYONE. Every 1kw of solar (about 4 panels) generates $3,000 in hard-cost savings to all utility customers, the environmental benefits are icing on the cake!
Restoring Maine’s Leadership
As we’ve remarked previously, utilities are fighting hard against net metering across the United States (with a few notable exceptions such as Green Mountain Power in VT, who are embracing rather than fighting renewable energy).
With the extension of the 30% federal solar tax credit, solar is on track to continue its exponential growth. Already, in 2015 solar beat out natural gas as the #1 source of new electricity generation added to the grid.
In Maine, the rate of solar adoption lags behind our New England neighbors and the rest of the nation. Maine’s Legislature, under pressure from party leadership and the Governor’s office, narrowly failed to enact comprehensive solar policy in spring 2016. Now, the unelected officials at the PUC have taken their turn at crafting policy, with the result that they have created an unworkable, impractical, and likely illegal policy that moves Maine in the wrong direction.
We’re proud that Maine has an opportunity to restore our reputation as a state of independent, free (and forward) thinking problem solvers. Maine’s Legislature needs to unite around the common ground of solar – economic opportunity, energy independence, and environmental benefits – and craft comprehensive policy that accelerates the deployment of solar as quickly as possible.