2016/9/16 – PUC ISSUES DRAFT RULES ON SOLAR NET METERING
Statement and description of proposed rules here:
The solar future is coming, and Maine’s economy and environment will benefit if policymakers have the will to modernize our energy policy:
- 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 strong solar policy to encourage investments. We need 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 70% 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, the 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.
#SolarSavesME – Solar Selfie Week! August 1 – 5, 2016
Did you know that every 1 kw of solar a homeowner invests in saves all Maine ratepayers around $3,000 over the lifetime of the solar array?
The week of August 1-5 is when consumer demand for electricity peaks on the Maine utility grid, as businesses and homes crank up air conditioners to cool summer heat. This “peak demand” causes major stress on the utility grid, requiring the sudden firing of dormant fossil fuel power plants (like the inefficient, oil-fired Cousins Island facility in Yarmouth) to meet the sudden spike in demand.
Solar is the ideal solution to peak demand because the maximum output of solar arrays coincides exactly with maximum strain on the grid, thereby allowing clean, renewable solar electricity to relieve the stress on our electricity distribution system of poles and wires. Utilities charge the highest rates for electricity during times of peak demand, which means that solar electricity offsets the most expensive power and thereby reduces overall costs to all ratepayers.
In fact, thanks to reducing strain on the grid and offsetting need for power from expensive ‘peaker’ fossil fuel power plants, studies show your solar array will save all electric ratepayers more than $3,000 for every 1 kilowatt of solar you installed. That’s a fact worth celebrating!
Solar is a Triple Win: Jobs, Economy, Environment
Solar has the unique ability to revitalize our economy, improve consumer choice, and benefit all electricity ratepayers. Yet, despite this, Maine has failed to adopt a comprehensive policy to support solar and currently has no state-level policies to support solar. Politics and misinformation led to the slim defeat of Maine’s innovative, first-in-the-nation “NeXt metering” policy proposal, which would have created over 600 jobs and saved all ratepayers $100 million.
Due to the failure of Maine’s legislative to override Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of LD1649, the fate of solar policy in Maine now heads to the PUC, whose unelected officials could make far-reaching changes to net metering policy. Whatever the PUC’s decision, Maine’s solar industry faces months of market uncertainty.
Our Solar FAQ page has been updated with FAQs about how the PUC process will work and our recommendations for people considering going solar.
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 with the electricity grid.
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. This new solar policy presents an opportunity to change this – a policy that navigates a tricky compromise between a wide range of interests including utilities, environmental groups, labor unions, municipal and education groups, and the Public Advocate’s office.
We’re proud that Maine has an opportunity to restore our reputation as a state of independent, free (and forward) thinking problem solvers. Utilities are aware that rooftop solar is not going anywhere and, given the reality of Maine politics, this proposal is the best new solar policy we’re going to have in the foreseeable future.