MFM Exclusive Op-Ed: Solar Subsidies Tax 99% For the Benefit of the 1%

4/12/18, by Rep. Beth O’Connor

*Editor Note*

The Maine State House voted Tuesday to sustain Governor Paul LePage’s veto of LD 1444, the Solar Subsidy Scam bill.

The vote came down to the wire, with 96 Representatives voting to override the veto and 50 Representatives voting to sustain Gov. LePage’s veto. If the solar lobby had been able to win over just two more votes, the veto would have been null and void, and the scam would have gone into law.

Five days earlier, the solar lobby’s hand-picked candidates attempted to whip the two votes they were shy over overriding the veto. However, when it became apparent they would not get the two additional votes, Speaker of the Swamp, Sara Gideon switched her vote to “nay” and then called for reconsideration.

Clearly, the solar lobby pulled out every effort to protect their Solar Subsidy Scam bill. The bill included massive windfall incentives for solar incentives and upwards of $4.2-Billion in mandated solar investments by Maine municipalities.

Maine First Media asked Rep. Beth O’Connor (R-Berwick) for her reaction to the sustained veto and the desperate measures utilized to override the veto. Rep. O’Connor is one of the leading voices for energy policies lowering costs for Maine workers. Below is her response.

 

Advocates for rooftop solar subsidies are back at it again, claiming motherhood and apple pie. Their pleas for more electric ratepayer subsidies to help those who can afford private rooftop solar shouldn’t be on the backs of Maine working families who can’t afford private rooftop solar.

Once again the legislative body sustained a veto on the bill LD 1444 by the narrowest of margins.

As a member of the legislature’s Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee, I support the continued diversification of our energy generation in Maine, including solar generation. But I do not support the continued expansion of a 30-year-old subsidy policy otherwise called Net Metering, which requires electric utility customers to pay private rooftop solar owners for the excess generation they provide to the grid.

For example, let’s say you grow your own vegetables. Under Net Metering, if you harvest more vegetables than you use, you can go to the grocery store and sell it back to the grocer at about three times as much as it’s worth. That would go over like a lead balloon.

And who pays? We all do…

But wait! Solar advocates claim that higher electric ratepayer subsidies for rooftop solar will somehow decrease everyone’s electric bill. However, solar advocates can’t point to a state where this has happened.

Rep. Seth Berry unsuccessfully touted Nevada as a solar success with solar expanse from here to eternity. The truth that Rep. Berry neglected to tell the body was that Nevada struck their net metering program completely because it was seriously hurting non-solar customers. They then took the time to reconfigure it, whereby net metering customers received 95% of retail value and pay a fee for the poles and wires they use.

He also refused to admit that LD 1444 gave solars customers 16.3 cents per kWh or 3 times more than the average retail rate. Perhaps it is because he enjoys the luxury of solar in his own home.

States like Massachusetts, one of the most progressive solar states in the nation, issued a report to the legislature by the state’s Solar Task Force which noted that “net metering cost projections for non-participating ratepayers are in the range of $2.5 to $4-Billion for the period 2014-2020.”

If one of the state’s most progressive solar adopters has made this conclusion, why is Maine going down this path?

Yet, legislators continue to support ratepayer-backed rooftop solar subsidies. This despite comments made in the Coastal Journal on January 9, 2018. In the Journal, the state’s largest solar installer was quoted as saying that “the cost of constructing a solar project has come down so far [80%] that building a solar array is attractive even if no subsidy is available…that’s increasingly true for projects of all sizes.”

Besides Rep. Berry, others legislative sponsors and advocates of LD 1444 receive electric ratepayer subsidies for their own rooftop solar arrays — and actually make money installing solar arrays — thereby using the legislative process for their own personal gain.

Those voting to override the Governor’s veto on LD 1444 have to ask themselves, if the state’s largest solar installer is saying that solar subsidies are no longer needed why do you continue to support a policy on the backs of hard-working Maine families?

Under new rules implemented by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the subsidy paid for by electric ratepayers would be phased out over a ten-year period. Perhaps this is why solar advocates claim they are being taxed — because eventually, they will need to pay their own way.

Advocates claim that utilities are against the subsidies because it affects their profits.

Solar advocates should know better. In CMP’s last rate case, they signed an agreement approved by the PUC that instituted a rate mechanism which makes utilities indifferent to whether utility customers install private rooftop solar or not.

Despite claims that the PUC’s new Net Metering rules will require ratepayers to pay for two meters on the homes of private rooftop solar owners, solar advocates forget that Net Metering is voluntary — nobody is forcing solar owners to do anything. They can still offset their own energy consumption without being a net metering customer and without the need for two meters.

I continue to shake my head when legislators tremble in their shoes and exclaim how they “must support a solar policy,” that they know taxes 99% of their constituents to support the one-percenters who already can afford the luxury.

Rep. Beth O’Connor is a three-term Republican member of the Maine State House. She Represents Maine’s 5th district encompassing Berwick and part of North Berwick. Rep. O’Connor serves on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. When she’s not fighting to lower energy costs for Maine workers in the halls of the Capitol, Rep. O’Connor is a waitress with a husband, four children and a grandchild.
*Editor Note*

Recommended listening with Gov. LePage’s Special Advisor on Energy, James LaBrecque, to further understand the problems with solar subsidies: 

Recommended additional reading to learn more about the downside of over-reliance on solar power:


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