Listen Up Maine, The People Have Spoken, They Want More Solar

Emily Green | @EmilyG_Maine

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has done it again, acting against the best interest of Maine’s citizens and businesses by proposing a new rule that will limit the growth of solar energy in Maine. Maine already lags well behind the rest of New England and the country on solar development and this new rule will ensure we remain at the back of the pack.

The LePage-appointed Commission’s proposed rule comes despite the comments of thousands of Mainers urging it to leave changing solar policy to Maine’s elected lawmakers. The proposed rule ignores existing law directing the PUC to encourage the development of solar, it disregards the Legislature’s ongoing work to establish a new, comprehensive solar policy, and it gives far too much credence to unsubstantiated claims backed up by no evidence that net metering has negative consequences for Maine citizens and businesses.  The Commission should have declined to change the rule and left the policy work where it belongs, in the hands of Maine’s Legislature.

Maine People Want More Solar

In the supposed “review” of net metering the Commission conducted prior to its announcement this week, the Commission asked Mainers whether it should change net metering. The people of Maine responded in droves with a resounding “NO!” Hundreds of homeowners, communities and business, with thousands signing on, espoused the value of solar to their finances, their neighborhoods, their jobs and businesses, and the environment. Mainers understand and emphasized that within the current framework, net metering is a critical tool for encouraging the growth of solar. The Commission’s decision to alter the rule ignores Mainers’ overwhelming outpouring of support for net metering.

Leave the Policy-Making to the Law Makers!

The Legislature has already made the policy decision to support the growth of solar in Maine, for instance by directing the Commission, in no uncertain terms, to ensure that private investment in solar capacity increases. The proposed rule does precisely the opposite, by making it harder to recoup the upfront costs associated with installation, and directly discourages Maine citizens and businesses from going solar.

But what’s more, the timing of the Commission’s decision just doesn’t make sense – the Legislature is already working on a complete overhaul of solar policy for the state! It’s no secret that earlier this year Maine lawmakers passed a bill that would have created a new framework for encouraging development of residential, community, municipal, and commercial solar, and only narrowly failed to override a LePage veto. Maine legislators from both sides of the aisle have expressed their intention to continue to work on solar policy this session. In other words, the Commission is needlessly tinkering with one aspect of a broader picture that the Legislature is not only better equipped to deal with, but is in fact already dealing with.

Just the facts, Ma’am.

All other things aside, the Commission’s decision to alter Maine’s net metering rule is also problematic because it demonstrates the Commission’s unquestioning acceptance of the unsubstantiated claims of the Governor’s Energy Office and Maine utilities. In the first place, the review of net metering began when Central Maine Power told the Commission that it had reached a threshold number that triggered the review. That’s it. There was no investigation of CMP’s claim; the Commission required no presentation of evidence or proof, and made no factual findings.

Then, when its “review” of net metering resulted in an overwhelming demonstration of support for net metering, the Commission nevertheless took the cost-shifting arguments of the LePage administration and CMP to heart, again without the benefit of any investigation, no presentation of evidence or proof, and no factual findings. The Commission’s decision to decrease reimbursement for solar customers is based on pure speculation about cost-shifting. In fact, the only study that the Commission did consider in making its decision was its 2015 Value of Solar study, which revealed that the value of solar energy for all Mainers far outweighs the cost. Mainers deserve more – the Commission’s decision should have been based on analysis and assessment of evidence and facts, not blind acceptance of dubious claims.

What can you do?

Maine lags drastically behind the region in solar power. Maine needs more solar, Maine wants more solar, and Maine needs comprehensive solar policy. That’s a job for our elected lawmakers, not the PUC. Let’s let our representatives and senators in the Maine Legislature know we want more solar for residences, businesses, and communities. Contact your representatives today!


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