2017-04-14 / Community News

Maine solar efforts lagging in New England

By Ryan O’Leary Special to the Leader

The Environmental Club of Scarborough (ECOS) is a service club of Scarborough High School comprised of students from ages 14-18 with the common goal of developing leaders in our community through environmental activism – by fostering respect for our natural world.

We recently educated ourselves about the lack of solar power in Maine, which is a major environmental issue.

By switching our energy reliance from fossil fuels to more sustainable sources like solar power, we can develop an infinite energy source without the negative cost of pollution.

Millions of Americans are ready to make the switch to this clean, and renewable source of solar, yet some utilities and other special interests are making this a challenge.

With that said, many solar campaigns in Maine are trying to break down these barriers to make it easier for citizens to have solar panels.

“An Act to Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development” was a solar bill sponsored in 2016 by Bowdoinham representative Seth Berry aimed to preserve net metering, and reestablish a solar rebate program.

However, the bill still needs legislation in Maine that embodies the principle that solar is for everyone.

First off, ECOS members believe that committing to more solar in Maine would be an excellent opportunity for jobs. Maine has been falling behind in solar compared to the surrounding region, with almost no growth from year to year.

Massachusetts and Vermont currently have eight to nine times the amount of solar jobs per capita than Maine. By increasing our solar jobs in Maine would open the doors to new opportunities for those who lost jobs from shuttered paper mills, as well as creating a new and innovative job field to attract young people.

Additionally, net metering is a billing system that rewards people who sell their excess solar energy back to the electrical grid. Maine’s Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) decision to eliminate net metering threatens jobs within the solar industry, and leaves the state’s small businesses with limited energy choices. With energy costs already high in Maine, making solar out of reach makes business very expensive in our state.

In addition, ECOS members believe that becoming more dependent on solar would not only make our environmental impact smaller, but it would be very affordable over time.

Solar power reduces our dependence on unsustainable energy sources that are contributing to climate change; specifically fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. This switch would promote and preserve the beauties of Maine, such as our lush forests, tranquil ocean coasts, and our beloved wildlife. We would also benefit economically, with the cost of solar electric systems dropping more than 60 percent over the last 10 years.

Although solar power is an investment, it would definitely pay for itself over time, and could be installed anywhere in the state.

We strongly believe that supporting and convincing legislation and representatives is crucial to help make Maine’s solar bill a reality. Maine is the only state in New England that doesn’t have an effective solar policy. However, “An Act to Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development” seems to be the route that needs to be taken if we want to help this cause.

Because of the recent uncertainty and continued inaction, solar installations and job creation are not on pace with the rest of New England, or the nation as a whole. This is truly a missed opportunity for Maine in terms of job creation, and energy dependence.

Without policies in place to make solar affordable and attractive to homeowners, business and towns, the industry will continue to struggle here.

We’re asking all who see this to examine the facts, and to form their own opinion about the issue. By simply expressing interest in any form will help persuade Maine representatives into changing their minds.

A few great ways include educating the people around you about this issue, writing letters to your representatives, or forming together a small group to visit with your legislators.

By supporting this cause you can help aid this huge issue that is negatively affecting so many people here in Maine. Please do the right thing.

For more information, visit www.350maine.org/solar.

Ryan O’Leary is a member of The Environmental Club of Scarborough.

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