Small businesses gathered in Augusta, Maine to urge Governor LePage to allow a solar bill to become law, now that it has passed the Legislature with bipartisan support. Over 20 small businesses signed a letter to the Governor saying that the bill would allow more small businesses to invest in money-saving solar energy and support more good paying, clean energy jobs. LD 1252 would reinstate the solar energy program at Efficiency Maine, which provides rebates to homeowners and businesses to help lower the up-front cost of rooftop solar energy arrays.
“Duratherm has utilized this program in the past to help fund the installation of our solar wall at our Vasslaboro facility about three years ago,” said Tim Downing, President of Duratherm Windows. “The result of this installation has been a 35 percent reduction in the amount of LP gas used at our facility. Not only has the solar system reduced our fuel usage, but it has also increased the number of hours per day our finish room can be used in the coldest days of winter. Energy efficiency and renewable energy investments at our facility have enabled us to eliminate our use of #2 oil (previously 21,000 gallons/year.)”
Last year the Baldacci administration’s solar program ran out of funds, leaving Maine the only New England state with no policies specifically to help people invest in solar on their homes and businesses, and leaving hundreds of Maine solar jobs in jeopardy. LD 1252 was enacted by the Legislature by strong votes in each body (House 109-30, Senate 22-12). It would provide one million dollars per year for 2.5 years for the program.
“This solar program helped hundreds of Maine home- and business owners invest in solar energy, and it was a key part of growing the solar industry in Maine—from Portland to areas like Pittsfield and Newport,” said Vaughan Woodruff, Owner of Insource Renewables in Pittsfield. “Now is not the time to abandon that progress.”
During passage in the Legislature, the bill was modified by an amendment from Representative Lance Harvell. This amendment allows the fund re-established for solar to also be used to help low-income Mainers install heat pumps.
“Heat pumps have a really big potential to lower heating oil costs for Maine households,” said Rep. Harvell. “This bill is a good example of what gets things done in Augusta, working together in a bipartisan way.”
Rachel Riley, a manufacturers’ representative for heat pump maker Fujitsu also spoke about the benefits of heat pumps. She described the rapid growth in heat pump installers in Maine, who are installing thousands of heat pumps annually, also with the help of Efficiency Maine.
The Governor has repeatedly stated his desire to promote high-efficiency heat pumps to further reduce heating costs.
“This bill helps individual businesses invest in solar, but it also helps everyone who pays an electric bill,” said Woodruff. “Rooftop solar power has enormous potential to reduce peak demand on our electric grid and avoid big costs for ratepayers. If we don’t advance solar, those grid costs will continue to rise.”
Solar power is the fastest growing energy technology in the world, due in large part to rapidly falling prices. Last year alone, the United States installed enough solar energy to power a million homes. But Maine is falling behind. The state lags behind on installed solar per capita, and on per capita solar jobs.
“As our letter says, ‘Without LD 1252, Maine will see less investment in our economy and our energy independence’,” said Downing. “That’s why we hope the Governor will let this good bill become law.”