UPDATE: On July 10th, Governor LePage vetoed Maine’s solar bill. We’re urging the legislature to override the veto. You can take action by sending your legislator a message asking them to stand strong for solar, here. We expect the vote before the end of the month, and we need as many people to reach out now to keep this bill alive.
Last week marked another milestone in the ongoing battle over Maine’s clean energy future. The Maine Legislature listened to everyday Mainers, stood up to fierce opposition from Governor LePage, and passed a solar law.
The Spirit of Compromise Wins the Day
While the bipartisan-backed law is a compromise, it accomplishes several important things. First and foremost, it puts an end to the Public Utilities Commission’s draconian new rule that would charge solar panel owners for power that never leaves their property. That’s right – without this new law, Mainers would pay utility companies for energy they produce themselves and use at home. As if that’s not bad enough, without this new law, the Commission’s rule would burden Maine families and businesses with millions of dollars in extra, unnecessary fees.
But that’s not everything the new solar law does. It also keeps net metering, which gives solar panel owners credit on their electricity bills for energy they produce and sell back to the grid. This helps create stability in the solar marketplace by ensuring solar customers are fairly compensated for the power they produce, thus spurring more investment in solar energy. And more stability in the solar marketplace means a host of good local jobs ranging from solar-panel installation to sales to project development.
The law also requires the Commission to take a long, hard look at the costs and benefits of solar power to the people of Maine. This will include a thorough analysis of other models, in addition to net metering, for reimbursing people who produce electricity and sell it into the grid. This mandatory review will give CLF and other groups the opportunity to again present the Commission with all of the facts about the enormous value of clean, local, solar power. These include costs saved on maintaining power lines (there’s less wear and tear when power is home-grown), lower energy prices from using low-cost solar power instead of turning on expensive fossil fuel power plants at times of peak demand, and, of course, reductions in climate-damaging emissions and other air pollution.
Another exciting development is that the new law will allow many more people to participate in community solar. It does so by raising the cap on the number of potential participants from 10 to 100, enabling more Maine families and businesses to produce their own power and lower their energy bills, regardless of their income level.
But We Haven’t Won Yet
Urgent action is still needed to make sure that this new solar law stays the law. Unfortunately, Maine’s anti-solar, anti-renewable governor is likely to veto it within the next few days. That means that legislators will have one last chance to protect Mainers’ clean energy future by voting to override LePage’s veto. The law has already passed with enough votes to do just that, but we need to ensure that legislators know how important it is to vote “yes” one last time!
That’s where you come in – it’s absolutely critical that Mainers say thank you to their legislators who voted yes, and express their disappointment and frustration with those who voted no.
These calls, emails, shout-outs on social media, and letters to the editor really matter – here’s your chance to make a difference in securing solar for Maine!
And if all of our lawmakers’ efforts somehow aren’t enough to override LePage’s veto, you can be sure that CLF will continue this fight in the courts. We’ve already challenged the
Commission’s costly, unfair solar rule in Maine’s Supreme Court. And that’s where you’ll find us if this solar law doesn’t prevail.