To the Editor:
I cannot concur with the complaints in Emmie Theberge’s letter to the editor on Feb. 9, because Maine’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is rolling back net metering for solar in Maine.
She claims that rolling back net metering will gut solar power in Maine.
To my understanding, net metering is a bad way to encourage the use of solar. It was meant as a way for people to sell back the excess power produced by solar panels. What is wrong with what I understand the current rule, is that solar producers get first dibs on selling the power back to the PUC, and at the regular retail pricing.
While great for the solar producer, it’s no way to run a business.
First of all, as long as solar panel owners are still on the grid, they get the benefit of the distribution system and the back-up support generation when the sun doesn’t shine or the snow is too deep. But they aren’t paying their fair share, because the utilities need to buy back any excess power at the full retail price.
If solar users are to have the benefit of sending back excess power generated to the power companies, then they need to do so in a competitive way, i.e., to compete with other producers on the price they get for their energy.
That way, we can determine if solar is really a competitive source of energy for consumers. Most of the info I have seen is that solar cannot survive on its own. The capital cost is too high without tax credits or benefits of some sort, and the realistic life of most installations is too short to get back one’s investment.
Maine has plenty of electricity. As of 2015, it was quoted to have 4,400 megawatts (mw) of electricity generation capacity, even if Maine rarely uses even 1,500 mw. The grid operator forecasts flat growth in demand for the next decade!
When solar was introduced, it was done so as a renewable resource and a CO2 emission-free source.
What is needed in Maine is to get the cost of energy down to consumers. The cost of electricity on Mount Desert Island is almost double what I pay in the winter at our place in Cincinnati (9.6 vs 5.3 cents/kWh).
The increased use of solar on MDI will only result in higher electric bills for Maine because of the cost to maintain reserve capacity for those cloudy/snowy days.
The best way to resolve this would be to improve energy storage. At the moment, the country doesn’t know how to do that efficiently, safely or economically. If effective storage were available, then costs could become competitive.
Maine is already the third cleanest state in the nation for CO2 emissions from electricity generation, so reducing emissions is not a necessity.
Net metering will only drive up the cost of electric power to Maine residents. Work on PUC to get the cost of electricity down to consumers. Don’t make their costs higher, which then we all will have to pay.