PHOENIX — Now’s not the time to erode energy choice for Mainers. As a conservative, I believe in consumer choice and competition, and rooftop solar is the only true form of competition that utility monopolies have ever faced.

As Maine wraps up workshops to develop the state’s solar energy future, Maine must preserve solar’s backbone policy: net metering, the most successful pro-consumer and competitive energy policy our country has ever known.

Solar has allowed potato farmers in Aroostook County to reduce their energy costs. It’s allowed Thomas College in Waterville to become more energy independent. Solar works in Maine because of the successful free market policy behind it: net metering.

Net metering allows Mainers – and hardworking, self-supporting Americans throughout the country – to generate their own electricity and receive fair credit for any excess electricity they provide to the grid. A strong net metering policy means no reductions in that fair credit, and no taxes on solar customers. Studies show that net metering plus solar reduces all Mainers’ energy bills, keeping more money in the state.

For every dollar that a Mainer spends on heating oil, 75 cents immediately leaves Maine. It’s time for Mainers to have a choice to keep that money at home by turning to local resources that also create local jobs, like rooftop solar. Now is the time to put our conservative principles to work to expand energy options and the free market when it comes to generating our own electricity.

Naturally, there will be resistance from monopoly utilities that want to stomp out such competition, even fighting rooftop solar tooth and nail – asreported last year by The Washington Post.

That’s why I formed Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed, an organization that helps the public tell utilities that solar is right for conservatives and right for America. The utility playbook that I have seen across the country is fixated on attacking net metering in order to cut off competition and limit consumer choice.

In fact, conservatives have worked to expand net metering. South Carolina unanimously passed a law to institute it. In 2015, the Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, demonstrated leadership in lifting the net metering cap in his state, ensuring that New Jerseyans have choice and independence in their energy sources. The increase to the cap also supported local job growth and has helped keep solar one of the largest industry employers.

On Dec. 14, regulators in California rejected attempts by utility monopolies to slash the compensation that rooftop solar customers receive for sending back to the grid. Under the utility plan, the average rooftop solar customer in California would have seen his rates increase by $800 a year.

In my home state of Arizona, utilities have been relentless in attempting to shut down solar through fees and surcharges. Thousands rallied when the state’s largest utility tried to slap a $100-a-month fee on rooftop solar customers. A $5-a-month compromise was reached. But the battle is far from over. Utilities here continue to look for new ways to drive rooftop solar power from the market.

The same is true for the rest of the country. Utility monopolies with deep pockets continue to target rooftop solar. What’s worse, many of these campaigns try to cloak themselves in conservatism. There is nothing conservative about shutting down free markets, consumer choice and energy independence.

Indeed, rooftop solar is something all conservatives should embrace. In addition to the environmental benefits, the benefits to the economy can’t be ignored. Nor can we ignore the fact that rooftop solar brings the nation closer to its goal of energy independence.

When you have more solar in Maine, that means more jobs in Maine and more dollars staying in Maine. And as a cornerstone policy, net metering is the only free market mechanism that doesn’t leave solar in the hands of monopolies or the government. Americans finally have a say in the electricity they buy in the face of monopoly utilities and their outdated business models. For that choice to exist in Maine, net metering must remain an option.