PORTLAND, Maine - Solar power advocates were in Augusta today to persuade Maine lawmakers to adopt new rules they say will preserve and expand the industry in Maine.
Under proposed legislation, existing solar customers could continue to be credited under existing rules for the power they send to the electric grid, through 2029. New solar customers would be compensated under rates set in a long-term contract – a method backers say will encourage more solar development.
Chuck Piper, with Sundog Solar in Searsport, calls the solar legislation a jobs bill. He says his grandfather and uncle worked all their lives at the soon-to-close Madison paper mill, "and with the possibility of 800 new jobs, I believe we can help take up some of the slack where the paper mills have lost jobs."
Utilities like Central Maine Power and Emera say the existing “net metering” policy is unfair because when solar generators put power back on the grid they benefit at the expense of all rate-payers, whose bills pay for daily upkeep and administration of the transmission lines. Now, utilities, environmentalists, most state-based solar businesses - and the state’s public advocate - have worked out a deal for the new long-term contracting legislation, which could lead the nation in efforts to move beyond outdated net metering policies.
But the LePage administration says the compromise legislation would hurt rate-payers.