February 5, 2023 Bangor Daily News

Fortunat Mueller is the co-founder and president of ReVision Energy. Mike Judge is the vice president for policy at the Coalition for Community Solar Access. Both are members of Maine’s Distributed Generation Stakeholder Working Group.

Consider two important facts:

Maine-made solar power is saving Mainers money.

Maine-made solar power is playing an important role in our fight against climate change.

These facts are driving the growth of solar development in Maine. Our state made a decision to help more solar projects get built and help more ratepayers benefit from solar power – that was a smart decision, and it’s working.

We’re strong supporters of our solar industry, and we believe that the evidence is clear: the contribution that inflation-proof fuels like solar are making to our economy and our environment is crucial.

Because of Maine-based solar power’s importance in the coming years, a recent Bangor Daily News article on solar in Maine is worth examining more closely. Frankly, the report was flawed and makes some sweeping and inaccurate claims about the perceived cost of solar without considering all its benefits.

The piece argues that solar programs are hurting ratepayers who don’t participate directly, a conclusion based on a very narrow examination of costs and benefits of a program that is scheduled to sunset this year. This is reflective of an active campaign of disinformation being spread by opponents of solar and it doesn’t tell the whole story of the positive impact our solar industry is having in Maine.

Last month, a report was submitted to the Legislature by the Distributed Generation Stakeholder Working Group, a 15-member body of state and local government representatives, consumer advocates, utilities, solar industry representatives, academics, and environmental advocates tasked with recommending a new policy framework to promote distributed solar. The group’s analysis examined the economic impact of both existing and potential future programs, finding that for every dollar spent on solar under current programs, Maine sees $1.10 in benefits. Under the new program structure proposed by the Working Group, these benefits are projected to increase to $2.77 for every dollar spent when the solar is paired with energy storage. This deployment of solar paired with energy storage is also expected to reduce electric rates for Maine residents and businesses.

It is vital that this paper’s readers are shown a complete picture of the benefits of Maine’s solar policy, including lower energy prices that result from zero-cost solar generation displacing more expensive and volatile fuels, the jobs and economic development resulting from the construction and operation of solar facilities, the local tax revenue generated from solar facilities, the greenhouse gas reduction benefits of deploying local clean energy, and the public health benefits of reduced pollution from fossil fuel generation.

It’s undeniable that increased use of solar is good for Maine’s environment – yet the Jan. 16 article doesn’t mention the word “climate” once. We believe that is a significant omission when talking about costs and benefits of Maine’s solar policy.

And we should also consider that as we make a clean energy transition there will be new electricity demand coming online – heat pumps and electric vehicles, for example – which will require additional sources of energy. Maine-made solar generation will play an important role in ensuring these pollution-free technologies will have the clean power they need so we can meet our climate goals.

Maine’s solar programs and policies, like all public policies, certainly can be improved as we learn more about the best way to design programs and how to benefit from opportunities created by the Inflation Reduction Act recently enacted by Congress and signed into law last summer. In a world where power delivery could be better and cheaper, the solar industry is focused on driving down costs and investing in our grid to improve reliability and resilience.

Readers should know that solar advocates will be working to implement a version of the new policy framework proposed by the Distributed Generation Stakeholder Working Group earlier this month that will improve Maine’s successful solar programs during the legislative session that just began.

Maine-based solar is saving Mainers money, fighting climate change, providing jobs, increasing local tax revenue, and helping usher in the next generation of clean electricity. There’s no question that our strong solar sector is having a broad, positive impact from Fort Kent to Kittery.

Let’s make sure we continue this momentum.