An industry in our state is starting to boom. It is drawing Mainers back home, giving people good-paying jobs and leading dozens of technology businesses from Maine and across the nation to invest in every county of our state. The clean-energy transition is coming to Maine, and it is because of the leadership shown by Gov. Janet Mills, who has positioned solar energy as a key part of our future economic growth.

It is no secret that Mainers are too dependent on expensive fossil fuels. Unfortunately, oil and gas companies want to keep it this way because they are making billions off us each year­. Instead, much of our energy dollars could be invested in Maine.

Solutions like weatherization, heat pumps and solar power present proven, cost-effective opportunities to invest in American-made energy that reduce costs for everyday people, curb harmful air pollution and boost job growth and innovation in every corner of the state.

For too long, outdated policies hampered the growth of solar in Maine, but new laws passed this year have helped turned the tide. Sending the message that Maine is ready to embrace the transition to clean energy takes persistent words and actions from our elected officials.

For the first time in a long time, energy and technology companies across the United States are looking to invest in Maine and our communities. This year more than 25 solar companies joined the Maine Renewable Energy Association, a tremendous increase. They are preparing to invest roughly $750 million in the next few years through medium-scale and larger solar projects that will reduce energy costs and provide landowners and municipalities with much-needed money they can use to invest in the future.

Maine-based businesses are beginning to thrive across the state as they help people from all corners of the state – of all ages, and regardless of political affiliation – install solar or heat pumps. These businesses are giving young Mainers jobs and attracting people from out of state to come live and work here. Maine is quickly seeing demand for workers outstrip existing labor markets. So companies like Maine Solar Solutions are training new workers, giving them technical skills for the 21st century.

Many of the projects ripening for development in Maine will be community solar, dramatically expanding affordable access to clean energy to all households, and municipal and commercial consumers.

Make no mistake, people vested in the status quo will try to play off people’s fears. They will spread misinformation about solar energy because they want to keep us dependent on dirty fuels. They will try to make this into a political talking point.

Those attacks are not based on the reality of what is happening on the ground in communities across Maine. Young people are busy installing solar panels on rooftops, getting the training they need or starting their own businesses to help people install solar on their own. These attacks do not reflect the economic reality of solar panels, whose costs have plummeted so far that the state cannot afford NOT to invest in this clean, reliable energy source.

This exciting growth is why the new solar panels recently installed at the Blaine House by Gov. Mills are so important. As Mainers, we must follow our motto and lead by example. State government will always have a critical role to play in that effort.

Business leaders and others will look to those panels, and to the steps our state agencies take toward a cleaner energy future, as a signal that the state is ready to embrace clean energy, inspiring hundreds of millions in investment and create hundreds of new jobs across Maine. Because the panels will pay for themselves over their lifetime, they are like a giant, free sign that says “Welcome Solar Investors!”

By embracing the clean-energy transition head on as Gov. Mills has done, we can make sure people across Maine, regardless of where they live or what their income level is, have access to clean, affordable energy. We can make sure our cities and towns get payments from solar developers that can be reinvested in schools, roads or other vital municipal services. And we can make sure that people who want good-paying jobs have the opportunity to be a part of this exciting new solar economy.

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