Proposed bill to promote solar energy development in Maine advances

March 19th, 2014 · Filed under: Business & Innovation, Capitol news, Economy, Energy Issues, Environment, Maine's green energy potential · 1 Comment

ReVision Energy workers installing solar panels on the Alfond arena, at Thomas College.

The Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee unanimously voted to support a bill sponsored by Democratic Senator Eloise Vitelli to support solar energy development in Maine.

“Maine is the only state in New England without a solar incentive program and because of this we are missing out on an important opportunity to increase access to energy, protect our environment, and strengthen our economy,” said Senator Vitelli. “The sun is the most abundant energy source on the planet and we would do well to take advantage of it.”

Maine’s solar energy rebates started under Gov. John Baldacci’s administration but when the funding ran out the LePage administration let the program die. Maine spends $5 billion per year importing fossil fuels and is the most petroleum-dependent state for home heating, with more than 70 percent of households using it as their primary heating source.

“Although Maine gets 33 percent more sunshine per year than Germany, the world leader in solar energy harvest, the Dirigo state is the only territory in New England with zero state policy support for solar energy,” said Phil Coupe of ReVison Energy, a Maine-based company that installs solar energy systems and helps non-profits with special financing programs so they can adopt solar power. “We have a tremendous opportunity to create good-paying jobs, reduce long-term energy costs and restore Maine’s air quality by adopting Senator Vitelli’s solar bill.”

Senator Vitelli’s bill directs the Maine Public Utilities Commission to take specific measures regarding solar energy, including monitoring and studying the development and value of distributed solar energy generation on ratepayers.

“This study will help us better understand the potential power and value of solar energy in Maine,” said Senator Vitelli. “Without a roadmap for where we want to go, it’s hard to get there. This measure is one step toward getting Maine on track with the rest of the nation in developing plentiful and cost-effective energy for homeowners and businesses.”

According to a 2010 report, rooftop solar panels alone could provide 24% of Maine’s electricity.

Solar power would also strengthen Maine’s economy. Research suggests that for the same amount of energy, solar power creates 55-80 times more jobs than natural gas with an estimated 45 companies and 270 direct jobs (which likely support over 300 indirect jobs).

“Like Maine’s other rich natural resources such as water, wind, and wood, the sun also is a renewable natural resource that we all have access to,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson, who is a co-sponsor of the bill and also serves on the Legislature’s Energy Committee. “By embracing next-generation renewable technologies, Maine’s economy can grow and energy costs can be lowered today and into the future.”

The bill, LD 1652, “An Act to Support Solar Energy Development in Maine,” will now be sent to the Senate for a vote.

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