A Response on LD144

The Town of Woolwich’s solar panels went online over three months ago and have already produced 6,415 kWh of non-carbon energy. You can get a look at its production here: revisionenergy.solarlogweb.net/20467.html. While Woolwich residents know it will take about 17 years for the panels to fully pay for themselves, they voted last year to take this forward-looking step and to take more control of their energy future.

Solar installations like ours not only create jobs and help the environment, but also reduce Central Maine Power bills for everyone. By reducing peak demand, and distributing energy resources across the grid, which is what rooftop solar does, solar reduces the need for more expensive poles and wires, which CMP customers pay for with interest. CMP claims otherwise, because its profit is higher when more infrastructure is needed.

CMP seeks to increase profits in other ways as well. First, thanks to the new PUC rules that took effect last month, Maine is allowing a utility like CMP to tax the energy produced (and used) in new solar residential and business installations, energy that never enters the grid. This new “behind-the-meter” tax is also referred to as “gross metering.” My representative voted to allow it after he first voted not to allow it.

Contrary to CMP’s claims, people or towns with solar panels help bring down energy costs to all of us. But under the new gross metering rules, CMP will also be able to charge all their customers for an extra meter to be installed in each home or business that uses solar, raising costs for all customers even by the PUC’s own math.

Instead of blaming solar customers, who are among those I represent on the Woolwich selectboard, CMP should be fixing its expensive new billing system, which customers also pay for, and address the thousands of complaints about inaccurate bills.

Maine needs a future-oriented energy policy that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, supports good-paying jobs, and reduces unnecessary expenditures by CMP. The bill that recently failed by only two votes in the state legislature, and which CMP worked to kill, would have made small steps toward that. Its failure is very disappointing.

Allison Hepler, Woolwich