#Maine Governor Janet Mills took office early this year and almost immediately began turning her focus towards #solar energy. Mills has signed a bill that will restore #net metering, a move that will allow residents to finally take advantage of the dropping prices in #solar panels. Net metering is a solar #energy incentive that allows consumers to create and consume their own electricity at any time, rather than just at the time that the solar energy is generated. Net metering is especially helpful during the evening or winter months when less sunlight is gathered.
The particular bill that Mills has signed will not only restore net metering for solar energy customers, it will also give customers credit back for any excess energy that is not used, helping solar energy customers in Maine to save even more money. With these new policies, prior provisions put in place by the Public Utilities Commission will become obsolete. These former policies mandated these solar energy customers have two electric meters, as well as be charged for all of the electricity they use, even if it is self-generated. The former governor of Maine, Paul LePage, effectively stalled solar energy growth in the region due to his negativity surrounding the subject, as well as repeated vetoes of solar energy bills during his term. This new bill signed by Mills is presented with the hope that it will help Maine, at the very least, elevate itself back to the status quo of solar energy production seen nation and worldwide.
Taking Advantage of Reduced Solar Costs
There is not a single state in this country or region in the world that is exempt from exploring alternative or solar energy options in order to contribute to a cleaner and sustainable future. Although Maine must now play catch-up in order to bring solar to the forefront, officials are doing so at this point where solar energy and solar panels are more cost-effective and affordable than ever.
An analysis published by MIT last November revealed why the cost of solar panels has dropped by 99 percent in the past four decades. Researchers at the institute found that government policy is the primary factor influencing the dramatic cost reduction. Government policy has helped to grow the solar energy market as a whole through measures such as feed-in tariffs and subsidies. In fact, MIT found that government policy stimulated market growth so much that these policies account for 60 percent of the cost reduction seen in solar panel prices.
Maine’s Solar Design Program
Nearly two years ago, faculty leaders at Kennebec Valley Community College (KVCC) in Fairfield, Maine were interviewed about their solar design and installation courses and certifications. The college offers an associate program to train individuals in solar panel installation and set-up, as well as non-degree certification courses. Back in April of 2017 when solar design instructor Rich Roughgarden was interviewed about the job market in Maine, he spoke to the problem that Governor Mills is now trying to fix. He said that while graduate students from the KVCC could expect to find work right away, it was unlikely that those jobs would be in Maine.
At the time, the solar energy market in Maine was lagging behind the rest of the region. Roughgarden’s apprehension was by no means pessimistic, but rather, a realistic representation of the solar energy market in Maine up until now. While renewable energy jobs are available in the Northeast, Maine is not providing as much opportunity as other surrounding states.
A Solar-Powered Future for Maine
Although Maine has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to solar energy, this new bill is a step in the right direction. Since we know that government policy is one of the most influential factors when it comes to the cost-reduction of solar panels, as well as growth in the market, we can hope to see new jobs and opportunities arise for in-state solar workers. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet in the coming weeks to discuss the details of the new bill and its provisions.