Maine has lagged behind the other Northeastern states the last five years in solar energy adoption, mainly due to indecisive and regressive renewable energy policy. This is now starting to change. Earlier this year, the state’s new governor, Janet Mills, signed legislation to end the previous regime’s gross net metering policy, which penalized solar customers. Now, a new bipartisan bill (LD 1711) has been advanced that would add more than 400 MW of solar by reducing barriers to entry.
“Maine is embracing renewable energy and solar power, which can benefit our economy and create jobs in our state,” said the bill’s sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Senator Dana Dow (R-Lincoln). “Distributed generation puts the power where it needs to be, right where it is consumed; and that can reduce costly burdens on our electricity grid. With this proposal it is my hope to bring the benefits of solar to more Mainers, from businesses to families with more limited incomes.”
The bill seeks to change the solar industry in the state a few ways. Community solar would be a priority to help low- and moderate-income households, enable the development of larger-scale community solar farms that could power more than 45,000 homes and also lift an arbitrary nine-person limit that has been holding back new community solar projects across Maine.
“Building out distributed generation assets around the state, owned by Maine businesses and employing Maine residents, means we are exporting fewer dollars out of our economy,” said John Egan, Chief Investment Officer, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. “Increased renewable and distributed capacity here means we are more resilient to damage caused by climate change.”
By modernizing Maine’s electricity policies to better capture the benefits of distributed solar technology, LD 1711 also helps to reduce barriers – especially for businesses and other large consumers to invest in their own power. The bill puts a premium on predictability and competitive markets, a move that would send a signal to businesses and financial institutions to invest in solar, and further encourage the solar industry to expand and create jobs here in Maine.
“With Maine’s high asthma rates and growing Lyme disease rates, this bill presents an opportunity for Maine to increase the use of clean energy and reduce greenhouse gases to help prevent illness and injury from the impacts of climate change,” said Karen D’Andrea, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Maine Chapter.
The solar bill is the result of five years of collaboration among a diverse range of interests, including conservation groups, municipalities, renewable energy businesses, public health advocates, and local businesses.
— Solar Builder magazine