In a June 24 column attacking solar energy, James LaBrecque argues that importing hydro power would be cheaper than investing in local solar. Getting Canadian power here would require billions of ratepayer dollars to build massive new transmission lines. That puts foreign hydro power at double the cost of locally generated solar.

The fact is, the price of electricity (including solar) is dropping while the cost of the grid continues going up. Transmission costs are now twice what they were when Gov. LePage came into office.

Other states are controlling the cost of the grid by incentivizing solar and by forcing utilities to implement new technologies that make the existing grid smarter and more efficient. Here, our governor and transmission utilities have joined forces to make war on solar.

This year LePage’s hand-picked Public Utilities Commissioners passed the worst anti-solar measures in the nation, trampling the right of Mainers to generate and consume their own clean power by placing on tax on solar electricity generated and consumed behind the meter.

Imagine hanging your laundry to dry in the sun instead of running the electric dryer, then the utility company sends you a bill for the electricity you saved. This is exactly what the PUC’s new solar tax would do to Mainers who generate their own clean solar electricity and consume it in their household behind the meter (never using the grid.) The new rule also requires an expensive utility-owned meter to be installed at time of a residential solar installation and a whole new billing software program to implement the rule, costing all ratepayers about $2 million.

This is essentially what the fight is about folks – distributed solar and a smart grid will lower peak electric loads and relieve congestion on the grid. They will reduce electric prices and keep the size and cost of the grid manageable.

But they will also lower utility profits. That’s why the big monopoly utilities nationwide oppose solar and consumer-owned smart grid technologies that make the grid more efficient.

Transitioning to a clean energy economy represents the greatest economic development opportunity for Maine in many, many decades. We can both grow jobs and at the same time lower costs.

Building massive new power lines to Quebec will only cost us.

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