Maine Solar Legislation 2017

Solar power in Maine is under attack by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) with a new ruling that will phase out net-metering (the only cost-effective way to enable a solar installation to pay for itself over a period of years). The ruling will also charge solar owners for the power they generate and use, along with creating an expensive, complex billing system that all rate-payers will have to pay for.  The only way to counter this PUC rule (that will take effect January 2018) is for the Maine Legislature to pass a solar bill that will protect net-metering and help build the solar industry in Maine. That is why we encourage you to join us in supporting:

An Act to Protect and Expand Access to Solar Power in Maine

Sponsor: Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham

1. Put into legislation protection of net-metering so the PUC commissioners (appointed by LePage) cannot dismantle it.

2.  Re-establish Maine’s lapsed Solar Rebate Fund that would make solar more affordable for low-income and moderate-income homeowners, towns, small businesses, and other institutions.   Maine used to have a solar rebate fund which stimulated a lot of the earlier solar.  This new fund would phase out after five-years, at which time it is expected that the cost of solar systems would have decreased making them more affordable.

3.  Allow for third-party ownership of a solar installation, a financial method that assists people with the initial up-front costs of building solar.  It would also remove the size-limitation to community solar farms making them more affordable.

 

If this bill is not passed and the PUC ruling stands, it will seriously cripple the solar industry in Maine. Maine already lags greatly behind all the other New England states in solar. The PUC ruling would leave Maine even more “solar unfriendly,” making it extremely difficult for solar installers to continue running a business in this state, bringing its solar industry pretty much to a standstill.  Without any incentives to make major investments, homeowners and towns will have to put their plans for solar on the shelf.  It will take years for the industry to recover.

Maine currently has about 400 solar jobs, many of them blue-collar jobs.  Rep. Berry’s bill could easily double and triple the number of much needed jobs all across Maine.  It would bring down the costs of electricity for towns and businesses. 

 

In a letter to the editor, solar installer Vaughan Woodruff says,

“The PUC decision to roll back net-metering rules is extreme, unjustified and harmful to Maine people and businesses….and is crippling Maine’s ability to grow a robust solar industry that will actually lower everyone’s electrical rates.  The PUC’s vote to adopt a drastic final rule demonstrates that the Legislature needs to act to regain control of Maine’s solar policy. “ 

 

While solar jobs in other parts of the US are booming, Maine has one-third the number of jobs (per capita) of other parts of New England.  Because solar power is highest in the summer months, it can provide energy for the electric grid during the highest energy-demand when Mainers turn on the air-conditioning, thereby reducing the need for extremely expensive super-peak power supply.  In this way, solar power actually reduces the electricity prices for everyone in Maine.

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Help us reach your legislators to ensure that this solar bill gets passed. 

  • Visit with your legislators with a small group of people. Visits have the most impact!
  • Help organize or attend a Maine Solar Advocate Training for effective advocacy.

 

It is expected that the bill will be coming to the Energy Committee in April.  It will be voted on in April or May. Please contact us if you can help or if you would like further information. 

350 Maine Solar Team leaders:

Sukie Rice (318-8531)

Caroline Thorne-Lyman (653-0901)

Chuck Spanger (232-3135)

 

Upcoming Maine Solar Advocate Trainings:

March 15, 6:00 - 7:30 pm, Scarborough Public Library, 48 Gorham Rd.

March 16 6:00 pm Portland (Location TBA)

See 350 Maine calendar for updates and details

 

We are conducting training sessions around the state to help people become increasingly comfortable with articulating the importance of the bill.  If you can organize a gathering of people, we’ll come to you to help people understand net-metering, and the economic and jobs issues.


 

These legislators opposed the solar bill last year.  They might be willing to hear new arguments and support it this year. Contact information here.

Black, Russell: Chesterville area

Chace, Paul: Durham, North Yarmouth, Pownal

Dillingham, Kathleen: Otisfield area

Hannington, Sheldon: Lincoln area

Hilliard, Gary: Belgrade, Mt Vernon area

Kinney, Maryanne: Freedom area

Malaby, Richard: Gouldsboro, Hancock area

McElwee, Carol: Caribou, New Sweden area

Pierce, Jeff: Georgetown, Phippsburg area

Picchiotti, John: Fairfield, Mercer, Smithfied

Sirocki, Heather: Scarborough (part)

Theriault, Tim: Albion, China, Benton

Vachon, Karen: Scarborough (part)

 

These legislators voted in favor of the solar bill last year.  They need to be contacted to say “thank you” and we’re counting on  you to vote for this year’s solar bill. Ask them to co-sponsor the bill.  They are getting a great deal of pressure from the Republican leadership to oppose solar, so they need their constituents to give them support. Contact information here.

Battle, Kevin: South Portland

Corey, Pat: Windham

Foley, Bob: Wells

Gilway , James: Searsport area

Harrington, Matt: Sanford

Herrick, Skip: Paris area

Higgins, Norm: Dover-Foxcroft area

Marean, Don: Hollis, Buxton/Saco area

Pouliot, Matt: Augusta (part)

Seavey, Stedman: Biddeford/Kennebunk

Stearns, Paul: Abbot/Greenville area

Bickford, Bruce: Auburn (part)

 

All legislators need to be contacted so you can inform them about the bill and its urgency.  Appreciate all the support they give the bill.  Ask to provide further information for those who oppose it or have questions about it.

ALL new legislators especially need to be contacted and informed of the issues.  If we don’t help them understand the issues, it will be the Republican leadership that tells  them how to vote.