Posted: January 21, 2014 | Front Page, Senator Jackson, Senator Vitelli

Environmentalists and energy experts back Vitelli’s bill to establish state solar energy goals

AUGUSTA – Earlier today, environmental advocates, energy experts, and business owners testified in favor of a bill to support solar energy development in Maine.

“Maine is the only state in New England without a solar incentive program and because of this we are missing out on an important opportunity to increase access to energy, protect our environment, and strengthen our economy,” said Democratic Senator Eloise Vitelli of Arrowsic, the sponsor of the bill.“The sun is the most abundant energy source on the planet and we would do well to take advantage of it.”

Senator Eloise Vitelli introduces her solar power bill

Senator Eloise Vitelli introduces her solar power bill

Senator Vitelli’s bill encourages solar energy development in Maine by establishing state solar energy generation goals and creating opportunities for the promotion and generation of solar energy development within existing programs and initiatives like the Small Enterprise Growth Program, MTI, Maine Rural Development Authority, FAME, and Department of Economic Development.

Senator Vitelli added, “Without a roadmap for where we want to go, it’s hard to get there. This measure is one step toward getting Maine on track with the rest of the nation in developing plentiful and cost-effective energy for homeowners and businesses.”

Maine spends $5 billion per year importing fossil fuels and is the most petroleum-dependent state for home heating, with more than 70% of households using it as their primary heating source.

“Mainers deserve a chance to generate their own power in an accessible way. As Mainers, we are an independent bunch–we don’t like to be so dependent on out-of-state energy corporations–and we don’t need to be,” added Senator Vitelli. “Solar power is a resource we have everywhere in Maine, from our rural towns to our downtown service centers.”

According to a 2010 report, rooftop solar panels alone could provide 24% of Maine’s electricity.

Solar power would also strengthen Maine’s economy. Research suggests that for the same amount of energy, solar power creates 55-80 times more jobs than natural gas.with an estimated 45 companies and 270 direct jobs (which likely support over 300 indirect jobs.

“Like Maine’s other rich natural resources like water, wind, and wood, the sun too is a renewable natural resource that we all have access to,” said Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson of Allagash, who is a co-sponsor of the bill and also serves on the Legislature’s Energy and Utility committee. “By embracing next-generation renewable technologies, Maine’s economy can grow and energy costs be can lowered today and in to the future.”

Other co-sponsors of the bill include Senator Jim Boyle of Gorham and Senator Rebecca Millet of Cape Elizabeth, both of whom testified in support of the measure at today’s public hearing.

The Energy Committee will hold a work session on the bill, LD 1652, “An Act to Support Solar Energy Development in Maine tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. in room 211 of the Cross Office Building.