Maine has taken the first step towards becoming the nation’s leading solar state by passing legislation to establish net metering. As of January 2020, customers will be able to purchase a solar powered product that is connected to the grid and receive up to 3.5 kW of electricity for free.
This is a significant milestone for the Pine Tree State, whose residents are known for being heavily aligned towards environmental causes. The new law will allow homeowners and businesses to purchase solar panels and install them on their rooftops. It also provides an incentive for residents to go solar by offering them compensation in the form of a credit for their excess electricity.
For years, major utilities have opposed the creation of net metering, arguing that it will strain the electrical infrastructure and cost them money. However, with the cost of electricity increasing and the government pushing for more renewable energy, this argument is no longer tenable. This is why states like Massachusetts, New York, and California have all passed legislation to establish net metering, while some utility companies like NV Energy, in the dark about it, have had to settle out of court.
Why Maine Voted For Solar Energy
The overwhelming majority of Maine residents are in favor of solar energy. According to a 2019 survey by Market Reach, 79% of respondents said they would buy a solar product, and 73% said they would install one themselves. The only thing keeping this support from turning into action is the high cost of solar installers and materials, which prevent many homeowners from going solar.
A bill that aims to reduce energy costs and promote solar power initially had its origins in 2014, when Maine state senator Eric Holcomb proposed a solar-friendly bill. The legislation was initially shot down by utility companies who stood to lose money due to the change.
However, public support for clean energy grew in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and so too did the desire to go solar. In 2016, Holcomb made another attempt to pass the solar bill, which this time included provisions for net metering. Once again, the bill was voted down by utility companies, who claimed that it would be unsustainable.
However, in 2018, the tides turned. The Vermont renewable energy standard (RES) had just been passed, and the need for more clean energy in the state had become incredibly apparent. Nine New England states, including Maine, were at the time working to reduce their carbon footprints, with New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont also looking to pass their own solar bills.
The need for change became even more apparent when the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) updated its guidelines for renewable energy, setting a new standard of 3.5 kW per household. This is significantly higher than the previous standard of 1.5 kW, and it made the cost of going solar much more palatable. For example, the price of solar power in 2017 was around $7.50 per watt, but under the updated guidelines, this increased to $15.90 per watt.
Net Metering Helps Customers Afford Solar Energy
Net metering allows homeowners with solar equipment to feed electricity back into the grid. When this happens, the utility companies compensate the homeowner for the electricity that they produce, which reduces the costs for everyone.
Customers with net metering can purchase solar products that produce more electricity than they use. In 2019 alone, Americans purchased more than $16 billion worth of solar products, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). This is a 35% increase from 2018, and it is expected to reach $26.7 billion by 2027.
The majority of these customers will take advantage of the federal tax credit, which varies from $15,000 to $30,000 and is directly tied to the production costs of the solar equipment. The credit is applicable for the first 200 kilowatts of electricity that you produce and install, so it is highly recommended that customers purchase a product that produces at least this amount.
While the financial benefits are invaluable, net metering provides a lot more than money. By reducing their carbon footprint and improving the environment, customers stand to benefit immensely from net metering, particularly in states like California, where air quality is at its best and has improved significantly since the program was started.
Maine’s Net Metering Bill Passes Major Environmental Tests
Last month, Maine Senate President David Berry brought the bill to the floor for a vote, and it passed with a bipartisan majority.
Berry had initially faced backlash for supporting the bill, with many people accusing him of selling out and compromising his principles, but he stood firm, citing the benefits of net metering to the environment and low electricity costs for consumers.
The renewable energy standard that the state legislature adopted, which provides 3.5 kW per household, significantly higher than the previous standard of 1.5 kW, ensures that more than enough clean energy is produced to power the entire state. With more than half of the power coming from renewable sources, like hydropower and wind, the environment will benefit immensely, while at the same time reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The new law will not only allow customers to purchase solar equipment and install them on their rooftops but will also ensure that utilities will be compensated for the power that they generate. This helps promote the use of clean energy sources, like solar, and incentivizes more people to go solar, cutting down on the state’s dependence on fossil fuels.
What’s Next For Maine?
The implementation of net metering in Maine is a significant step towards promoting solar energy in the state. However, as exciting as this is, it is only the beginning. The next step will be for customers to purchase solar products and start generating their own power. This will not only reduce their energy costs but will, in turn, reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and improve the environment.
As time goes by, other states, including New York and New Hampshire, that have passed similar legislation, will follow suit. Soon, homeowners with solar panels will no longer be regarded as a thorn in the side of utility companies, but rather as part of the solution.