Solar economics

To the Editor:

Thank you for the Islander’s great coverage of the recent event organized by A Climate To Thrive (ACTT), the grassroots organization seeking to make Mount Desert Island energy independent by 2030.

The news coverage captured the messages from Sen. King, the other speakers and the ACTT representatives mostly spot-on.

One point I want to correct was in the paper’s editorial regarding the economics. Net metering will not “ultimately increase the cost for all other consumers.” The Brookings Institute recently reported on net-metering economic studies done for over a dozen state PUCs. They conclude that non-solar ratepayers will not pay more because of net metering.

For example, a 2015 study done for Maine’s PUC estimated that over a 25-year period, solar users here will generate energy worth $0.34 per kWh, compared to an average retail price of $0.13 per kWh. Roof-top solar benefits all ratepayers because it reduces electric prices by displacing more expensive power sources, reduces CO2 and other pollutants, reduces costs for the grid, reduces the need to build more power plants to meet peak demand, stabilizes prices, etc.

Besides of these quantified economic benefits, it also provides a degree of energy security and creates jobs for Mainers since somebody local needs to install and maintain these systems.

The current regulatory model for solar will likely change, although to what is unclear now that Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed a bipartisan bill creating a more forward-looking framework. The new framework needs to be fair to consumers with and without solar as well as incent our currently tiny solar industry to grow faster. I look forward to the Islander covering events at the PUC where this will be decided over the coming year.

John Fehlauer

Mount Desert

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