The solar future is coming, and Maine’s economy and environment will benefit if policymakers have the will to modernize our energy policy:
- Since 2006, the solar market has grown about 76% per year.
- In 2014, 32% of new electricity generation came from solar.
- Nearly 645,000 U.S. homes and businesses have gone solar, and in 2014 a new solar project was installed every 2.5 minutes.
- Maine is currently dead last in New England for solar jobs and installations per capita.
- Solar now employs over 180,000 people – DOUBLE that of the coal mining industry
- 300 workers and dozens of company work in Maine’s solar industry – an industry threatened by policy uncertainty
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.
4/29/2016 – Maine’s House could not muster enough support to overturn Gov Paul LePage’s veto of LD1649. Two votes were held on the bill, and several legislators opted to leave the House floor vs. have their votes be on record for the second vote. There has been ample coverage of the strange affairs in the statehouse in the press; see: Republican lawmaker let his district down, Cohorts show no backbone, The six Republican ‘walkers’ who killed Maine’s solar bill
4/21/2016 – Maine’s Senate unanimously passed LD1649, after adding a “Woodsome Amendment.” This amendment shaves off a year of the program, adds some language about controlling costs to ratepayers, and carves out targets for installing solar in agricultural areas and for municipalities. With the amendment, the House voted in favor 91-56. Governor LePage has said several times that he will veto this bill and we expect he’ll do that. We strongly encourage all solar supports to look up the roll call vote of the amended bill – http://www.mainelegislature.org/LawMakerWeb/rollcall.asp?ID=280059805&chamber=House&serialnumber=633
And then either send your THANKS or your DISAPPOINTMENT to your legislator. This web-based tool will automatically send your email to the correct person: http://solarforme.org/urge-your-legislators-to-vote-for-ld1649/
You can also look up your legislator’s info at: http://legislature.maine.gov/house/townlist.htm
4/13/2016 – Maine’s House has passed LD1649, 81-69. See the full roll-call vote to see who is FOR and who is AGAINST saving Maine ratepayers money and creating jobs: http://legislature.maine.gov/LawMakerWeb/rollcall.asp?ID=280059805&chamber=H&serialnumber=605
Why Support LD1649?
- Creates over 800 solar jobs across wide geographic area of Maine
- Save over $55 million to all utility ratepayers in Maine
- Break down barriers that keep apartment dwellers and low-income homeowners from going solar
- Allow cities, towns, and larger businesses to save money with solar energy
What makes this bill great?
The product of over a year of work, and garnering support from Maine’s public advocate (whose job is to keep prices low for Maine ratepayers), CMP and Emera, and a wide coalition of solar advocates, LD1649 is the right legislation at the right time for Maine to take advantage of the energy saving and economy boosting potential of solar power.
How to support LD1649:
- Contact your Maine state senator and representative(s) – Look up your legislator here, also send a note to the members of Maine’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee
- Contact the press – writing a heart felt letter to the editor can be quite powerful
Maine’s Solar Industry Supports LD1649
Dozens of representatives from Maine solar installers, from York to Pittsfield, came out to speak together in a single voice in support of LD1649. Though made up of 40 companies with over 330 workers, across a wide geographic range and often in competition for projects, the industry unified to speak clearly that the “NeXt metering” proposal would help the group grow their businesses and lead to more sustainable jobs in Maine.
Solar Advocates Support LD1649
Over one hundred Mainers from various walks of life joined together to support LD1649 at its public hearing on March 16, 2016. The group included representatives from towns, faith-based organizations, labor leaders, concerned citizens, people with solar, students, and many more.
What’s Net Metering and Why Do We Need NeXt Metering?
Maine’s existing net metering policy is a simple contractual arrangement created between a solar producer and the electric grid. The solar producer’s array is ‘grid tied,’ meaning any excess power generation (during daylight hours, obviously) is sold back to the grid, and earns a credit on their meter. At the end of each month, credits are reconciled vs. consumption (at night, during cloudy weather) and if the solar producer has exported more electricity than they imported from the grid, they will earn a 1:1 solar credit for use in later months, up to a year. This very simple but powerful arrangement allows a customer, for instance, to produce excess electricity all summer long with a solar PV system and then use the ‘banked’ solar credits to offset the heating load of an efficient electric heat pump in the wintertime. Solar credits can also be used for water heating or even car charging – anything you use electricity for!
Net metering has been a powerful foundational policy for the rooftop residential solar and small commercial market, creating a very clear, simple, and fair incentive for people to go solar. However, there is an opportunity to accelerate solar deployment even faster, and to resolve the rift between utilities and solar producers by moving towards a more transparent system. In particular, NeXt metering would:
- Sets 5-year goal of installing 250MW of solar, 10x what currently exists in Maine!
- Eliminates arbitrary cap community solar farms
- Establishes effective market-based approaches to expand larger solar for towns, large businesses, and the whole electricity grid. Strikes dead the argument that solar gets a ‘subsidy’ in the form of net metering.
More about what’s in the Solar Stakeholder Bill and how “NeXt Metering” would work: About NeXt Metering
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.