Maine Legislature Gives Initial Approval to Bill That Will ‘Reduce Barriers’ to Solar Power Throughout the State

The Maine Legislature recently gave initial approval to a bipartisan solar energy bill (LD 1711) that will deliver a comprehensive reboot to Maine’s solar policies and reduce barriers that are preventing more Mainers from accessing clean, affordable solar power.

Earlier this week, the Maine Senate voted 32-2 to advance the bill, sponsored by Senate Republican leader Dana Dow, and hours later the House voted to pass it by a vote of 93-52. The bill faces additional procedural votes in each chamber before it heads to the governor’s desk.

“Mainers overwhelmingly support the transition to clean energy because they know it will help reduce energy costs, create new jobs, and reduce our reliance on costly fossil fuels,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

Maine currently ranks last place in New England in solar energy development and solar energy jobs.

A diverse group of businesses, towns and clean energy advocates worked together to advance LD 1711 in order to establish much needed regulatory predictability for the solar industry and the use of competitive markets to reduce energy costs for Mainers. Related bills have previously been supported by the Legislature over the past few years but did not become law over the objections of former Maine Governor LePage. Like earlier versions, the bill is designed to maximize benefits to ratepayers while making it easier for to invest in solar, especially for commercial and municipal energy consumers.

The bill has broad support from organizations across the state as diverse as the Maine Municipal Association, Associated General Contractors, and the Environmental Priorities Coalition.

LD 1711 will:

  • Create more than 500 new jobs, establish much needed regulatory predictability for the solar industry to take off, and use a competitive market process to reduce costs.
  • Accelerate the development of more than 400 megawatts of distributed solar power to serve residents, businesses, and towns across the state. Distributed generation makes the electric grid more resilient and gives consumers more choices for their energy needs.
  • Grow the development of community solar farms, a cost-effective solution that would allow Mainers to buy into solar energy if they can’t place panels on their homes. The bill enables the development of larger-scale community solar farms that could power more than 45,000 homes and lifts an arbitrary nine-person limit that has been holding back new community solar projects across Maine.

 

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