2016/10/5: PUC PROPOSES NEW TAX ON BEHIND-THE-METER SOLAR
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 Pubilic Utilities Commission has proposed a draft 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. This proposal is clear evidence that the PUC is the wrong authority to be creating solar policy because the draft rules are not only unworkable, but also likely illegal and undeniably move Maine’s solar policy in the wrong direction.
This unprecedented overreach – whether intentional or accidental – reinforces our core message that it is Maine’s Legislature’s job to create solar policy, not the PUC. Last year, a number of self-described solar supporters in the legislature decided not to support the comprehensive, compromise solar bill (LD 1649) in part because they believed the PUC was better equipped to handle the issue. If this is the PUC’s best effort, then obviously the legislature needs to take the reigns back.
We invite you to a rally and public hearing at the PUC on Monday, October 17. Your presence is critical to show Mainers support solar energy, local jobs, and energy choice.
What: Solar Rally and Public Hearing
When: Monday, October 17 rally at noon, public hearing at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Maine Public Utilities Commission, 101 Second Street, Hallowell, ME
Can’t Make it to the PUC Hearing?
DIRECT LINK TO COMMENT ON THE DOCKET – https://mpuc-cms.maine.gov/CQM.Public.WebUI/Comments/PublicComments.aspx?CaseNumber=2016-00222
WRITE YOUR LOCAL PAPER – We have contact info for local papers and guidelines for writing letters to the editor.
CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS – Many legislators voted against solar thinking that people in their districts didn’t care. Prove them wrong! You can contact your local legislators using our online portal.
VOTE – The legislature will likely take up a solar policy bill again this January, which could reverse changes made by the PUC and potentially improve things for solar. Local politics matter, and the makeup of Maine’s legislature after the November elections will strongly effect the possibility of a new solar bill passing. As we know, any solar bill will need to override the Governor’s Veto, so a strong majority of Pro-Solar legislators from both major parties are needed for legislative success.
The Solar Future is Coming
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.
- 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 with 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!
Read more about the Value of Solar.
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.