solar power

State regulators have granted a temporary reprieve for installers of small solar generation projects in Maine. It’s the latest shoe-drop in the ongoing controversy over the way those small-scale generators are compensated for excess electricity they provide.

For decades, Maine has offered solar projects credits for electricity they generate beyond what is used on-site. Early this year, the state Public Utilities Commission created a new rule that would reduce the value of those credits over time.

Susan Montoya Bryan / Associated Press

The fight over incentives for solar power installations in Maine enters a new phase this month.

New, less-generous incentives for solar installations set by the Maine Public Utilities Commission kick in on Jan. 1. But before then, parties on all sides are asking for some clarity.

Solar installers, for instance, want a ruling that any customer who asks to connect a new solar array to the grid by the end of this month will qualify for this year’s comparatively generous incentives. Central Maine Power says only installations that are actually up and running should qualify.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine - Construction has started on what is expected to be Maine's largest municipally owned solar array.
 
The Portland Press Herald reports that installation began at South Portland's capped landfill Tuesday. ReVision Energy, a Portland based energy company, is leading the project.
 
The one-megawatt solar array will be composed of 2,944 solar panels. Officials expect the array to generate 1.2 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year.
 

Jim Mone / Associated Press/file

The future of solar power in Maine is once again up for grabs in the state Legislature. And powerful interests from Maine and around the country are trying to shape the outcome. 

Mal Leary / Maine Public

An overflow crowd turned out for a legislative committee hearing Thursday as supporters and opponents of incentives for solar power development in Maine squared off.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine's largest environmental organization says it will "pursue every opportunity'' to walk back new solar energy rules recently adopted by the state Public Utilities Commission.
 
The Portland Press Herald reports the PUC in January approved changes to its "net metering'' policies that provide homeowners with credits for their electricity bills for any excess solar energy produced.
 

State regulators Tuesday approved new rules for the incentives received by Maine residents who install solar-power systems.

Gov. Paul LePage is proposing a three-year “grandfather” period to allow Maine residents who have installed solar panels to recover some of their upfront investment through a practice called net metering. After that, he wants to end the program. The governor’s new proposal is drawing swift criticism from the solar industry.

Under net metering, residential solar generators can get a credit on their electric bill for excess electricity that they put back into the power grid. Over time, those credits can help cover the cost of the original investment, for, say, solar panels.

Patty Wight / MPBN

PORTLAND, Maine - Advocates for solar power say Maine is falling behind most other states in its ranking for solar capacity.

Environment Maine today released its fourth annual report on solar energy in Maine. Owen Mansfield is a campaign organizer for the group.

"In this year's ranking, Maine dropped to 27th in per capita solar capacity, and 34th in total solar capacity," Mansfield says, "after ranking 24th and 29th respectively in both categories last year."

AUGUSTA, Maine - The Maine House has failed to override Gov. Paul LePage's veto of a bill to modernize state policies on solar power.

A last-minute effort to resurrect the bill on a second vote also failed.

Rep. Sara Gideon, assistant Democratic leader, said Friday the proposal would've spurred job creation. But Rep. Ken Fredette, House Republican leader, said he feared it would kill jobs by raising energy costs while helping only a small number of Mainers.

The proposal is dead after failing to muster a two-thirds vote.

Efforts by Assistant House Democratic Leader Sara Gideon and Gov. Paul LePage to reach a compromise over a bill that would establish a comprehensive solar policy for the state have failed and the governor has vetoed the measure.

In his veto message, LePage said he vetoed the bill because it would increase overall energy costs for Maine ratepayers and because Democrats would not negotiate in good faith on counterproposals.

Not surprisingly, Democrats says that’s simply not true.

Proponents of expanding new clean energy sources gathered today at Falmouth High School and urged Mainers to ask their lawmakers to override an expected veto of a bill that would establish a comprehensive solar energy policy for the state.

With the school's massive solar panel array as a backdrop, supporters of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said that on the eve of Earth Day and the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, now is no time to step back from solar energy alternatives in Maine.

The Maine House on Wednesday approved an amended version of a solar energy bill that supporters say will create hundreds of new clean-energy jobs and reduce energy costs for nonsolar consumers.

The 91-56 vote falls 10 short of the two-thirds support needed to fend off a certain veto by Gov. Paul LePage, but Rep. Jennifer DeChant, a Bath Democrat, said the need for more jobs in Maine should trump any ideological arguments against solar power.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Key Republican lawmakers are pushing to modify an ambitious solar power bill in an attempt to win enough support to override an almost-certain veto from Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Sen. David Woodsome, a Republican from North Waterboro, said Wednesday that he and Rep. Norman Higgins, a Republican from Dover-Foxcroft, will propose amending the bill so it reduces risks to ratepayers while providing the solar industry with stability and an opportunity for growth.

Nora Flaherty / MPBN

Portland is lagging behind other American cities in the installation of solar panels. That's according to a new report from Environment Maine and the national environmental organization, Frontier Group.

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