Editorial: Sunny outlook

Installing solar panels on a home, school or public building is a large up-front investment that reaps significant savings over time, as the locally-generated electricity offsets some of what would otherwise be purchased from the power company.

But the rules for exactly how that offset happens are quite complicated. Because the rules have kept changing, and because of deadlines for various state and federal tax credits and incentives, there’s been a sense of urgency around many of the new solar installations on Mount Desert Island.

Now there’s hope that Maine has turned the corner. New laws passed this spring should provide some long-sought stability.

In April, Governor Mills signed into law a bill repealing the system called “gross metering” that was implemented by the PUC beginning in 2017, replacing “net metering,” the former standard practice. Under gross metering, the owner of a residential rooftop solar array pays transmission and generation fees even on electricity that never leaves the home.

Net metering, by contrast, deals only with the net movement of electricity into or out of the home.

In June, Mills signed three more new laws intended to support solar energy in Maine. And those laws are not a wild swing to the left or an overcorrection from the previous administration’s attempts to put the brakes on solar development. They’re similar to laws that received strong bipartisan support in previous Legislatures, but did not receive enough votes to overturn Governor LePage’s vetoes.

Indeed, one of the new laws, L.D. 1711, was sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Dana Dow. It’s aimed at supporting community projects such as the solar arrays on municipal buildings here on MDI, and the new one going in at MDI High School.

Hats off to the legislators and advocates who have been in the middle of the long slog to get to this point. Thanks to you, we have clearer skies for continued growth in clean energy.

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