New Report: Benefits of Maine’s Solar Growth Outweigh Costs – Natural Resources Council of Maine

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A new report commissioned by Maine’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) provides clear evidence for policymakers that the benefits of solar growth outweigh the costs. 

The PUC’s report, entitled “Status and Cost & Benefit Analysis of Maine’s 2023 Solar Market,” is the first comprehensive assessment of the costs and benefits of solar projects under the Net Energy Billing (NEB) program. 

The independent analysis considered the myriad of benefits that solar energy provides in Maine, including the reduced demand for expensive fossil-fuel supply from the regional grid, avoided strain on our transmission and distribution system, and reduced pollution, among other benefits.   

Summing them up, the study finds that the benefits outweigh program costs at a ratio of 1 to 1.29, meaning that for every dollar spent on this program, ratepayers get  $1.29 in benefits.  

The PUC’s report was required by LD 1986, a new law that the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) helped pass last year to reform the state’s Net Energy Billing program. 

LD 1986 put in place a set of reforms to help Maine transition to the next generation of policy support for small- and medium-sized solar projects and to ensure that all ratepayers reap the benefits of homegrown, reliable, low-cost renewable energy as we take the steps needed to address climate change. 

The Net Energy Billing program was created to empower Maine people and businesses who cannot put solar panels on their roofs—because they can’t afford them or don’t own their roof, whatever the reason—to participate in the benefits of clean and cost-effective solar energy. This report shows that the NEB program doesn’t just serve program participants and community solar subscribers, but it serves all Maine electricity customers.   

All energy sources have an impact on our electricity bills. Oil and gas contribute to higher energy costs while also causing significant damaging costs to our health, our climate, and our environment.  

Allowing investor-owned utilities to conduct business as usual also has significant costs to ratepayers. This is why NRCM helped pass an integrated grid planning law in 2022, and is focused going forward on reforming utility regulation to align incentives with the build-out of a more equitable, reliable clean energy future. 

As is true with any energy source, bringing clean energy sources online is not without cost, but this report shows those costs are well worth it thanks to the benefits to our environment and our society.  

The report’s official findings come as a welcome reminder of the important role that solar has to play in helping the state build a flexible, resilient, and affordable grid to withstand increasingly extreme weather and achieve its emission reduction requirements.  

Rebecca Schultz, NRCM Climate & Clean Energy Senior Advocate 

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