House and Senate Approve Solar Bill, More Votes Ahead

Published: Jun. 21, 2017 at 4:37 PM EDT
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Dylan Voorhees, the Clean Energy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, announced that the Maine House of Representatives and Senate both approved a new bill focusing on the development of solar power in a statement this afternoon:

“The legislature’s bipartisan votes for the solar bill are good news for Mainers. This common sense bill will help prevent the loss of solar jobs in Maine, save money for all Maine electricity customers, and allow more Mainers to benefit from this clean, local, renewable energy resource. The solar bill is especially needed to overturn the broken, anti-solar Public Utilities Commission rule and increase access to community solar.

Today, the House voted 90-54 in favor of the “Majority report” of the committee in favor of the bill and yesterday the Senate voted for it unanimously. This is the only solar bill advancing to voting this year. The Governor’s ideological opposition to solar power remains an enormous barrier and foreshadows a likely veto, which will require 2/3 to override. Now that the House has chosen which report or version of the bill it will consider, it faces further votes to adopt the bill.

The amended bill is the product of Republicans and Democrats, solar installers, business people, and environmental and diverse organizations working together to ensure a healthy, sustainable energy future for Maine people through promotion of solar power and the good jobs it brings.

If the Legislature fails to pass this bill, then the harmful new anti-solar net metering rule, already adopted by the Public Utilities Commission, will go into effect January 1, 2018. That rule increases near-term costs for all electricity consumers in Maine—residents, businesses, and farms—by millions of dollars, and threatens good solar jobs, too.

A vote in favor of LD 1504, which would overturn the PUC’s terrible anti-solar rule, should be a no-brainer for lawmakers looking out for their constituents. Republicans, especially in the House, will need to decide whether to side with Governor LePage or to side with Maine electricity users and progress on solar power for Maine.

Unless the legislature acts, the PUC’s net metering rule, poised to take effect later this year, will increase costs for all ratepayers by incurring additional metering and billing system costs. The rule also includes an unprecedented tax on energy that homes or businesses consume onsite. It will require customers to pay utilities for power that never touches the electricity grid.

While Governor LePage and CMP continue to put out false information to pressure lawmakers to oppose the bill, a recent analysis by the outgoing Public Advocate concluded that the bill will save ratepayers about $1 million between now and 2021, plus additional savings for avoided billing system changes which were previously estimated at $1 million, reaffirming that the bill saves ratepayers money and doing nothing raises costs. Monopoly utilities are trying to make even more money by passing more costs and new fees onto you and me, and other Maine people and businesses."