Electricity rates are going up again, and this time Democrats are to blame for what some are calling a ‘job-killing solar tax’

By Rep. Dick Bradstreet

The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced this week that your electricity bill will rise again in July. It shouldn’t surprise anyone – legislative Republicans and Maine’s Public Advocate have been warning Mainers about this for years. Yet most Democrats in Augusta have refused to listen; and now all of us are paying the price.

Hello, this is Representative Dick Bradstreet of Vassalboro. I wish I could join you today to share better news; but unfortunately, that is not the case.

In what some business community members have called a job-killing solar tax, residential ratepayers and now many of Maine’s businesses will start paying higher amounts of what is called the stranded cost portion of your electric bill. Simply put, this is the part of the bill where you are paying for the solar panels that have popped up across Maine. You may have heard it called Net Energy Billing.

Still, electricity supply rates are already 76 percent higher on average today than they were before President Biden took office in 2021, much of it due to his war on fossil fuels. But the reason for this rate hike is different and much more local.

It’s not because of Versant or CMP – they’re just doing what they’re told. Maine Democrats are responsible for this one because of the expensive mess created by solar subsidies through Net Energy Billing and other hidden subsidy costs.

In a press briefing held by Legislative Republicans after the PUC’s announcement on Tuesday, we outlined the impacts the state’s solar subsidy policy is having on Mainers and who was responsible. As stated by Senate Republican Leader Trey Stewart of Aroostook County, Democrats are solely to blame. Listen in.

Video excerpt, Sen. Trey Stewart:

 “As you’re turning on your air conditioner this summer and this week – it’s going to be very hot this week – I’m going to warn you right now, your bill is going to go up. And when it does, if you are represented by a Democrat in the Legislature, send them a thank you note.

 It is their fault. They should be held accountable for what has happened. They make a lot of empty promises about caring about you and your family and your business. They don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t have sent hundreds of millions of dollars to out-of-state and out-of-country solar developers.

 That’s what they did. You can ask the PUC. You can ask the Public Advocate. You can look at the rollcalls. That’s what they did. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about your family. They don’t care about your businesses.”

He’s spot on and Maine’s Public Advocate, Bill Harwood, agrees. He said previously the Net Energy Billing program – as it stands today – “is inequitable” and something must be done before it gets any worse. Well, it already is.

We’ve seen other states struggle with these solar subsidy and net energy billing programs for years and haven’t learned from it. In fact, California had to end theirs because the growing number of rooftop installations left customers who didn’t install solar paying an unfair share of maintaining the state’s electric grid.

In essence, Net Energy Billing subsidizes the cost for the wealthiest who can afford to install solar panels at the expense of the elderly and poor who can least afford it, and anyone else who chooses not to install solar. That is simply unfair.

When it comes to the business community, House Republican Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham of Winter Harbor said during the press briefing that businesses will see solar subsidy cost increases up to 1,664 percent. Yes, you heard that right. Listen in.

Video excerpt, Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham:

“Imagine running a business and your electric bill will increase astronomically. And we’ve heard from several businesses – and I have some examples here and you’ll hear more later on – but one business had a $200 stranded cost in 2023 that will become $3,400 in 2024. Another business had a stranded cost of $24,000 in 2023 that will be $77,000. That’s from one business from Penobscot and the business from Aroostook and we’ve heard from businesses across the state.

So what do businesses do? They pass on their costs to their customers. They layoff workers and they don’t hire more people to expand.”

Now, Democrats have said Republicans are against renewable energy like solar. Not true. We support renewable energy solutions that are smart, affordable and prioritize the budgets of Maine’s families and businesses. As it stands now, however, the Public Advocate told lawmakers last year that we will have to cover about $220 million in solar subsidy costs per year for the next 20 years.

That’s $4.4 billion in total. Who can support that?

The bottom line here is Democrats have let self-serving special interest groups set an agenda that favors solar over more competitive power generation alternatives like hydro. But now that we’re seeing the true cost of it, residents and businesses alike aren’t happy about it.

That is why this program must end. Republicans tried to do it through LDs 683 and 1347, but Democrats and their solar industry allies were able to defeat those measures. Still, we need to do what’s best for Maine’s ratepayers, which I know has been and will continue to be a priority for me and my Republican colleagues.

Again, I am Representative Dick Bradstreet of Vassalboro. Thank you for listening.

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