solar-billSolar energy advocates, state lawmakers and companies that install solar-energy systems said Tuesday that Maine should catch up with the rest of New England. The group, including Natural Resources Council of Maine, touted a bill that restores a $2,000 rebate for those who install solar-energy systems.

For homeowners the news on solar is good, too, said Fortunat Mueller who noted that the cost of solar installations over the past five years have dropped by 70 percent, triggering record growth in solar energy in the U.S. in 2013 with 4,300 megawatts installed. “That’s enough to power about 850,000 homes,” Mueller said. He said the industry employed 143,000 full-time employees in 2013, a 13 percent increase from 2012.

“This incredible market-transforming growth is happening because solar energy doesn’t pick winners or losers,” Mueller said. “It’s available to anyone who wants to make an investment to control their long-term energy costs.” Homeowners who took advantage of the state’s rebate program before it was eliminated said the rebate made it possible for them to finance their solar systems.

Representative Melvin Newendyke said the rebates, which are paid for by a surcharge on electricity bills in Maine, cost the average ratepayer 5 cents a month or about 60 cents a year.

“I think the rebates make sense,” Newendyke said. “Normally, I’m opposed to subsidizing, but in this particular case the subsidy is very minor — that 5 cents a month can turn into about $11 million of economic activity within the state — that’s a huge return.”

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