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Solar Incentives Set To Shrink, But Uncertainty Remains In Market

Susan Montoya Bryan
Associated Press
Solar panels in April 2011.

The fight over incentives for solar power installations in Maine enters a new phase this month.

New, less-generous incentives for solar installations set by the Maine Public Utilities Commission kick in on Jan. 1. But before then, parties on all sides are asking for some clarity.

Solar installers, for instance, want a ruling that any customer who asks to connect a new solar array to the grid by the end of this month will qualify for this year’s comparatively generous incentives. Central Maine Power says only installations that are actually up and running should qualify.

That’s just one of several related regulatory questions up for grabs. Vaughn Woodruff, founder of Insource Renewables in Pittsfield, says the commission has created a challenging environment for the state’s solar industry.

“Uncertainty is never a really desired thing to have, and so a lot of it’s just going to depend on some of the answers that we’re still waiting on in terms of implementation of the rule, in terms of how much it’s going to impact the market in 2018,” he says.

The commission takes up several solar issues in separate proceedings this week and next. Also next week, the Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments in a challenge by solar advocates and others to the commission’s entire set of new rules for solar.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.