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Solid Turnout at Solar Hearing

Last Thursday, January 11, we had great turnout in support of Senator Saviello’s solar bill (more aptly dubbed the “gross metering bill”). Maine Audubon members and supporters in particular made their voices heard, testifying before the Committee.

David Kuchta testifies in support of solar policy
Maine Audubon supporter David Kuchta testifies for the solar bill.

Jared Crawford from Brooks expressed his frustration that the Maine Legislature and LePage administration keep moving the ball on solar policy. As a solar customer, he said, he can’t help but regret installing a grid-tied system amidst such regulatory uncertainty. David Kuchta from Portland shared his experience being part of a community solar project. Under this bill, the number of participants that can take part in community solar would increase significantly.

I shared with the Committee that in my time at Maine Audubon, I had heard more from our members on this bill than any other. It’s clear: Maine Audubon members and supporters want to see positive movement on solar policy in Maine.

​On Tuesday, January 16, the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee held a work session on the bill. The Committee voted 6-5 “Ought to Pass as Amended” (the amendment is minor and technical). We anticipate that the two Committee members that were absent will join the majority, leaving the final tally at 8-5. While the bill indeed got more votes from the Committee in its favor than not, this vote foreshadows a tough vote before the full legislature.

We’ll be in touch with you soon asking for your help to get the votes we need to make this bill law. Stay tuned! For more information about why Maine Audubon supports this bill, check out our testimony below.

Testimony in Support of LD 1686, An Act To Amend the Laws Regarding Distributed Energy Generation and To Eliminate Gross Metering

Public Hearing Before the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee
Thursday, January 11, 2018

Good afternoon Senator Woodsome, Representative Berry, and members of the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee. My name is Eliza Donoghue and I represent Maine Audubon and our 30,000 members and supporters in support of LD 1686, An Act To Amend the Laws Regarding Distributed Energy Generation and To Eliminate Gross Metering.

To protect wildlife and its habitat, Maine Audubon is committed to reducing the need for energy powered by fossil fuels, the largest contributor to climate change. Maine Audubon supports and promotes policies that facilitate production of clean and sustainable energy at the local and state level and at homeowner, business, and community scales. LD 1686 is such a policy.

LD 1686 moves solar policy in Maine forward in a number of ways:

  • The bill would remove a tax on the solar power Maine people generate and use in their own home or business. The present policy is backwards–akin to taxing families on the vegetables grown in their own garden. Removing this tax will remove an arbitrary policy that is a disincentive to home and business solar power production.
  • LD 1686 increases the number of eligible customers that may participate in a community solar project. Increasing the availability and scale of community solar makes solar power accessible to a larger and more diverse swath of Maine people. If you rent, if your roof is not appropriate for a solar installment, or if a solar array doesn’t fit your personal budget, community solar is a great option.
  • This bill calls for an adjudicatory proceeding on the merits of net metering. As a science-based organization, Maine Audubon particularly supports a facts first approach to weighing the costs and benefits of net metering. An adjudicatory format will remove rhetorical clutter and allow the Public Utilities Commission to focus on the facts before making its recommendation on net metering.

Climate change is one of the biggest threats to wildlife and habitat in our state, across the nation, and around the world. Increasingly, warmer and shorter winters affect many of our iconic species, such as moose, lynx, loons, and our state bird, the Black-capped Chickadee. Research from National Audubon has found that 314 bird species are likely to lose 50% of their range by 2080, including 50 birds in Maine as a result of climate change. Warmer stream temperatures threaten Maine’s native brook trout and endangered Atlantic salmon, and sea level rise will erode our state’s coastal habitats, affecting endangered birds like the Piping Plover and Least Tern. This bill is one way to address the devastating impacts that climate change is having on the wildlife that Maine people value.

Let there be no doubt: LD 1686 is not a silver bullet. However, supporting this bill is a significant step in the right direction and sends a powerful message that we hear day in and day out: Maine people support solar power, as an expression of supporting Maine’s wildlife. We urge you to support this bill.

Thank you for your consideration.