Solar jobs in jeopardy
A critical piece of legislation, LD 1649, which will dramatically increase the number of solar installations and grow jobs, is being considered by the Legislature. LePage has already said he will veto the legislation when it gets to his office. Maine stands to lose up to 800 substantial wage-earning jobs if he does so.
The governor is basing his decision on the myth that ratepayers foot the bill for solar expansion. It has been public knowledge for over two years that the Maine Public Utility Commission conducted a study that concluded that energy produced by solar panels provides up to 34 cents per kilowatt hour of benefits. Individuals and businesses that own solar arrays are only compensated 15 cents per kilowatt hour for the energy they produce and return to the grid.
LePage also says he doesn’t believe in subsidies yet he wants Mainers to spend millions on a pipeline to bring natural gas to Maine. It won’t bring jobs to Maine, and it certainly won’t reduce the cost of electricity. Don’t subsidize the gas companies, make them pay for their infrastructure.
Passage of this bill is about giving Mainers the freedom to own their own power rather than being dependent on the large utility companies. It also is about the number of local jobs that will be created by the solar companies that design and install that power source for residential and commercial use. Passage of this bill is about giving Mainers a choice for their future.
National park an economic boost
Now is the time to support both our tourism industry and economically hard-hit, rural communities in Piscataquis and Penobscot counties by establishing a national monument as a first step toward a national park and national recreation area near Mount Katahdin. This project has been carefully developed with local input from people who understand that a park will bring visitors to Maine’s inland forests, rivers, mountains, and thus to the nearby communities and businesses.
The proposal, including a first-of-its-kind endowment for park operations, will create economic benefits throughout Maine. Visitors will buy gas, lodging and meals on their way to and from the park. They will rent bikes and kayaks and hire guides. Along the way, visitors may discover other interesting destinations that rural Maine has in abundance. This may bring them back to Maine, perhaps to settle here, start new businesses and raise families.
A 2013 study showed that a national park and national recreation area could provide more than 450 direct and indirect jobs to Penobscot and Piscataquis counties — which would directly benefit the park’s gateway communities. Numerous studies show that rural locations across the U.S. that currently have a national park or national recreation area have experienced strong economic growth. This would certainly be the case in the Katahdin region, suffering the consequences of a dissolving paper industry.
Maine has a lot to offer. Sen. Angus King and the other members of our delegation need to recognize that this proposal will help strengthen Maine.
Truth about solar power
Mainers deserve accurate facts when it comes to energy policy, and I’m writing to correct the misinformation out there about LD 1649, An Act to Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development.
Gov. Paul LePage says this bill will cost ratepayers. The truth is that LD 1649 is specifically designed to save ratepayers an estimated $100 million over the next 20 years by harvesting free energy from the sun rather than importing polluting fossil fuels from away while unleashing $500 million in direct investments in renewable energy infrastructure that will make us more resilient and sustainable. By increasing the amount of solar in Maine by a factor of 12 over the next five years, this bill will also create 800 new jobs to help stanch the job losses in our traditional industries.
This compromise bill was hammered out by three natural adversaries (utilities, the ratepayer advocate and solar installers). Why would LePage prefer to build a natural gas pipeline that will cost ratepayers $75 million when instead we can invest in our own clean, renewable solar energy?
Maine has the highest per capita fossil fuel consumption and second highest rate of carbon emissions in New England. We spend $5 billion per year to import fossil fuels from away. LD 1649 is our opportunity to invest in local clean energy, create good jobs and save ratepayers money.