Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Yes, the sun will shine, and set us free — from the fossil fuels that are ruining our climate and planet and taking far too much of our income.
We get more sunshine than Germany, which has developed solar power all over the country, leading the world to a better place. And it’s time for Maine to take the lead in this country. Maine — Life the way it should be. The way it must be.
We can only hope that our political leaders get this right. In Augusta, they are approaching a decision on solar power that will define our future. Maine utilities are demanding that we be limited to large-scale solar-energy projects feeding substantial amounts of power into the electric grid. Our innovative solar power companies hope to continue building on the system that allows smaller installations on homes, businesses and shared community sites.
Well, I say let’s do both. And to encourage the smaller installations, we must maintain the net metering system that was explained this way in a recent news story by Tux Turkel: “Through net metering, Maine utilities currently provide a one-to-one credit to customers on their bills for power they generate and feed back into the grid. The practice essentially means that customers with solar panels pay only for the ‘net’ amount of electricity they buy each month, that is, what they consume minus what they generate. Homeowners who generate more electricity than they consume receive a credit toward future bills.”
Seems reasonable to me and essential to our solar power future. I understand why the big utilities want control of our solar power future. They have controlled, and profited from, our generation of energy and power for more than a century. Well, it’s time for them to share that control.
Think of this like water. Some of us have our own supply, others buy their water from a utility. I even have the opportunity to sell my water, if I want. That same opportunity should be available to me with solar power. If the utilities get control of the sunshine and the energy it can produce, well, we’ll be in an expensive fog for another century.
There is no question that my water, which comes from an aquifer under my property, is cheaper and better than your utility-delivered water. Likewise, my woodstove produces heat a lot more cheaply than your (or my) oil furnace — because my wood comes from my woodlot. Imagine if CMP had control of our wood supply.
Turkel reported that this battle is also being waged in Washington, where “Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, has teamed up with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to introduce an energy bill amendment that would protect existing rooftop solar customers from changes in their net metering rates. This federal proposal is opposed by utility and business interests, as well as a trade group representing utility commissions.”
Well, of course it is. And thank you Angus for fighting for us on this important issue.
Turkel also reported that Maine’s utilities argue that they should control our solar power future, because “not everyone has a house with good southern exposure, so they can’t take advantage of net metering.”
Well, sounds like our water system, doesn’t it? Some of us can produce our own, others have to buy water from a utility. But I would be some old unhappy if I was forced to pay a utility for the water that sits in the ground under my house. Nor do I want to pay them for the sunshine that blesses my home most days of the year.
Fortunat Mueller, a co-founder of ReVision Energy, argues, according to Turkel, that the home and small-business sector is the major market for the state’s solar installers: “The first priority of policymakers, he said, is to not hurt that market, which employs roughly 400 Mainers. He and others say that if any alternative is developed for net metering, it should run side-by-side with the existing program for a test period, to evaluate each approach.”
Sounds very reasonable, doesn’t it?
While we may be blessed by cheap oil and gas right now, some of which is used to generate electricity, we can’t (or certainly shouldn’t) ignore the high price our climate and planet is paying for our use of these fossil fuels. I visited those shale oil operations in North Dakota, with the excess gas being burned right before our eyes, and the number of waste disposal landfills skyrocketing, and I can tell you, that is not the future we want or need.
So, let’s not be fooled by the current low price of oil and gas, and let’s not let the utilities continue to dominate our energy future. That future is up to us. Let’s hope our legislators understand that, and support us. Then they too will shine.