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Pivotal Week for Future of Maine Solar

State lawmakers are expected to take a vote this week on a measure that supporters say is crucial to ensuring Maine's solar industry does not die on the vine. (Insource Renewables)
State lawmakers are expected to take a vote this week on a measure that supporters say is crucial to ensuring Maine's solar industry does not die on the vine. (Insource Renewables)
April 11, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine - Lawmakers are expected to take a vote early this week on an act to modernize the state's solar policy, and supporters say passage is crucial to ensure that Maine solar does not die on the vine.

Vaughan Woodruff owns Insource Renewables in Pittsfield and says the measure provides an alternative for the current net-metering program and would ensure that Mainers with solar panels get credit for the excess solar electricity they produce.

He says it also will help the industry grow.

"If this bill passes, we have predictability in the marketplace for solar, which means that we'll see an uptick on the amount of solar that's put in in the state of Maine," says Woodruff. "We're going to see solar across all sectors."

Staffers at Gov. Paul LePage's energy office say the governor plans to veto the bill because it maintains subsidies for homeowners who install rooftop solar, which he says hurts other ratepayers.

Woodruff says residential solar is one of the only viable sectors in Maine. If the bill fails, it would derail efforts to get Maine into large-scale industrial solar and community solar.

Woodruff says he is optimistic the measure will pass both the House and Senate, then he says they will need to muster enough votes to overcome the governor's expected veto.

"It's not just a political game," Woodruff says. "We have companies in the state that are already losing jobs right now, because the uncertainty is holding customers from making final decisions on what they're going to do with their systems."

LePage staffers say the governor opposes the measure because it is not market-based, but Woodruff thinks there is major politics at play.

"The governor was a keynote speaker at the American Legislative Exchange Council's annual conference in Arizona this year, and I think it is very clear what the intents of ALEC's are," he says. "It is not about the people of Maine. It's about catering to large corporations who want to control state legislation."

The measure is titled "An Act to Modernize Maine's Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development." The bill number is LD 1649.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME