Bearing Witness for the Future

PUC Hearing Net-Metering Rules Oct 17

Photo by Livio Filice, via Facebook. (I am in the front row in a yellow solar shirt.)

Yesterday I participated in the public hearing held by the Public Utility Commission for new net metering rules in Maine.  From one testimony, I learned that these proposed rules are the most regressive, anti-solar rules in the nation.  In another testimony, Conservation Law Foundation attorney Emily Green questioned whether this process is even legal, since the changes are drastic enough that they are no longer really net-metering rules, but rather serve to eliminate net-metering–and thus are not within the purview of the Commission. Also noted was the fact that no economic impact statements had been prepared, prior to the hearing, as required by regulation.  Sadly, none of this made it into the story run by the Portland Press Herald today.

I gave testimony, too, but not on technical details or the effects on jobs or existing solar customers.  I spoke in my role as a minister, taking a look at the bigger picture.  Here is what I said:

I want to speak of our responsibility to the future generations, our grandchildren and their grandchildren.  Every gallon of oil we use today is a theft from the quality of life for those future generations.  If we take our responsibility seriously, we should be doing everything possible to shift all of our energy use to renewables, as soon as possible.

That responsibility to the future generations is why my family downsized from a 2000 square foot home to a 1000 square foot home–so we could afford to put solar panels on our roof and use less oil.  It only works for us because of some kind of net metering–solar produces energy during the day, and more during the summer, so we need to draw from the grid at night and in the winter, from the credits we build up during the sunshine. Net-metering makes it work.

But even so, there are only so many things I can do as an individual.  We need to be moving collectively toward an energy policy that will leave a livable future world for our grandchildren.  It is that serious!  We are creating in our time the story that the future generations of human beings will live.  Will it be a story of hardship?  Wars over declining resources? Chaos, and violence? Or will it be a story of human beings living in mutually beneficial relationship to each other and to all beings of the earth?

I know which story I am committed to–and I think we all want that.  It means doing everything possible to encourage the transition to renewable energy.  I pray that you will go home tonight and think of those future generations–our grandchildren and their grandchildren.  I pray that we might leave them a beautiful world–a world we know is possible.

We were told that all testimony was recorded and will be able to be seen at the website of the commission, but it is not posted yet, as far as I can tell.  The website is very difficult to navigate. If you want to find out more about this rule making case, you can follow this link.  If you want to make a comment on these proposed changes, you can do so at this page, using the case number 2016-00222.

There is a lot more to say about all this, but for today I will leave it with my prayer–that we might leave a beautiful world for the future generations.

 

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Endings/Next Chapter

Tomorrow we are closing on the sale of our house in North Yarmouth!  Margy is there cleaning up tonight, and I took a last carload of stuff home tonight after work.  Lots of feelings: relief, weariness, glad to have us finally all in one place, sad to leave the trees, glad to have seen the daffodils bloom.

Meanwhile, I’ve been plotting the next chapter in Portland.  I’ve arranged for replacement of our roof shingles, which were nearing the end of their useful life.  That should happen next week.  And, I’ve been researching solar options with a couple of installation companies.  It has been more confusing that I thought it would be.  Lots of options, and the companies didn’t make exactly parallel proposals, so it has been hard to compare.

Meanwhile, state legislators this very day were debating the future of solar energy in Maine.  Our governor has been an opponent, claiming–I believe falsely–that ratepayers are subsidizing those who are using solar.  Right now we have net-metering, where consumers who have solar panels can send extra power generated by solar panels to the grid (for example on sunny summer days), and get a credit for watts that they can use later when they need power in winter.  This benefits the grid because summer is the time of highest demand.  It is what we hope to do.  But the current plan is scheduled for some sort of change after this year, because we’ve reached 1% of energy generated.

It is so crazy, because we all need to keep expanding renewal energy as much as possible, if we are going to have a planet for our future generations.  I wrote emails to my new state representative and state senator, and they are supportive–but there needs to be more support to override a veto by the governor.  He is doing so much damage.  No one in the opposition talks about the subsidies that oil and gas industries still get.  I wonder who is planning for a future  going up to 50% solar?  And then, how do we imagine a fully renewable energy grid?   Meanwhile, despite the political uncertainty, despite the opposition, Margy and I are going forward with our own plans for solar, casting our vote for the future.Bridge to the Sun