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Solar Net Metering Challenge In Maine

Maine solar stakeholders are petitioning to preserve net metering after proposed legislature threat.

Add Maine solar system owners to the list of distributed energy champions concerned over legislative changes to existing net metering policies.

maine lighthouse shutterstock_302111207 (1)A press announcement reports Maine solar installers, local and national businesses, environmental organizations, and the newly formed Solar Energy Association of Maine delivered a petition with nearly 4,000 signatures to the Legislature today, urging Maine regulators and lawmakers to preserve current net metering policy as a side-by-side option for consumers who want to go solar.

TO: MAINE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION AND LEGISLATURE

“Maintain retail net metering in your recommendations for Maine’s energy future. Net metering policy has driven the rooftop solar industry, economic growth and thousands of jobs. Elimination of net metering threatens Mainers’ ability to make private investments to generate their own electricity. Net metering is the only rooftop solar policy that avoids new taxes. No thriving solar market exists in the U.S. without stable net metering policies.”

According to the announcement, this petition follows a letter signed by 15 groups, including local energy companies, the local IBEW union, and national nonprofits, similarly calling for regulators to maintain solar net metering. Without a legislative fix that keeps net metering intact, nearly 400 solar jobs and almost 50 solar businesses in Maine are at risk.

Facts on the Maine Solar Industry

  • 3.5MW of solar capacity were installed in Maine in 2014, a 43% increase over 2013.  Maine ranks 31st nationally in 2014 installed solar capacity.
  • Of the solar capacity installed in Maine in 2014, 2070 kW were residential and 1510 kW were commercial.
  • The 13MW of solar energy currently installed in Maine ranks the state 34th in the country in installed solar capacity.  There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 2380 homes.
  • In 2014, $11 million was invested on solar installations in Maine.
  • Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices have dropped steadily across the nation— by 12% from last year and 45% from 2010.

Earlier this year, the national utility trade group, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), intervened in the solar stakeholder process, which Maine’s solar association said was an attempt to eliminate net metering before Maine’s solar market can take off. The legislature is expected to take up legislation this month that will determine whether solar net metering will continue for Maine residents.

Utilities across the US have been attacking net metering, with the most recent case of the Nevada Public Utilities Commission deciding to end net metering resulting in more than a thousand job losses and six companies ceasing operations in the state.

Chris Rauscher, director of public policy for Sunrun, said: “If solar net metering ends, the solar market will grind to a halt and the job loss will be equivalent to another Maine paper mill shutting down. Maine cannot afford to lose more well-paying jobs.

“Alternative policies, without the certainty of net metering as a side-by-side, give utility monopolies even more power. Utilities will have no incentive to make the new program work, which could lead to hundreds of hard-working Mainers losing their jobs and Maine ratepayers being forced to pay more.”

“We opened Sundog Solar six years ago and began offering Mainers energy independence with solar energy products and installations. Along the way, we have created 10 new jobs and we are about to add more,” said Chuck Piper of the father and son business, Sundog Solar. “If Central Maine Power influences the Public Utilities Commission or Legislature into eliminating net metering, we will be forced to lay off our workers and Maine residents will lose the opportunity to own their power.”

Last week, an amendment to the US Senate Energy Bill aimed at protecting residential net metering, proposed by two senators, including one from Maine, was backed by solar industry groups.

Senator Angus King, an independent representative for Maine, sponsored the amendment, presenting it along with Nevada Democrat senator Harry Reid on 28 January. It is among close to 200 other proposed amendments to the US’ politically bipartisan S.2102, the ‘Energy Policy Modernization Act’.

Source: PR Newswire, PV-TECH

Image: Maine lighthouse at sunrise via Shutterstock

ME solar energy facts via SEIA

Note: This reporter was unable to locate a newly formed Solar Energy Association of Maine. The Maine Solar Energy Association (MESEA) did not report this news.

 
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Written By

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

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