A grid-tied solar electric system (with solar hot water, top middle) installed in Maine.

A grid-tied solar electric system (with solar hot water, top middle) installed in Maine.

Although it has not been officially published, the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued a summary of its solar policy ruling and, as anticipated, it takes Maine’s solar policy in the wrong direction.

Continuing to ignore the independent Value of Solar study approved by the PUC in 2015 and the clear directive of the legislature to develop policy to accelerate solar energy investments and projects in Maine, the PUC has issued a rule that, starting in 2018, will gradually diminish Mainers’ return on a solar investment. (Full details here: http://solarforme.org/)

In addition to reducing net energy billing credits in years ahead in its ruling (unsupported by any factual data), the commission irrationally kept the arbitrary 9-member limit on community solar farms and the 660 kw cap on large scale solar.

Further, it keeps in place a measure to essentially tax behind the meter solar production (system output produced and consumed at your location with no interaction with the utility grid).

While the news is discouraging, we are still very optimistic about solar’s future in Maine because:

  • Existing systems and systems installed by year-end 2017 will qualify for 15 years of grandfathering with retail net-metering as it is today. The depreciation proposed to start for new customers in 2018 is noticeable, but will not kill the economics of solar.
  • Technological advancement continues to reduce the cost of solar equipment, as well as battery technology, meaning that grid policy is increasingly less relevant to the ROI of a solar project.
  • Maine’s legislature has the power to overturn the PUC ruling and move solar policy back in the right direction. We trust that solar’s myriad benefits: providing high-quality construction jobs for Mainers, building a decentralized and more resilient grid, and providing the opportunity for Mainers to get control of their energy costs, and helping to preserve Maine’s environment, will appeal to the Legislature.

What to do now?

Stay tuned to this space. There are several solar bills in the works for Maine’s legislative session and we will share details once we have more information.

Please get involved! Lawmakers need to hear that constituents in their districts (Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts included) want their right to go solar protected. Further, they need to hear that people are not fooled by the stream of inaccuracies and outright lies put forth by politicians interested in slowing the transition to clean energy.

This message cannot just come from the solar industry. You can make a difference and we can get the solar policy Maine needs to accelerate the clean energy transition. Maine is surrounded by states that are embracing the benefits of solar, let’s not settle for less!