Thanks to a longstanding lumber industry and investment in hydroelectric power, Maine has a strong commitment to sustainable energy. According to EIA data, the state produces roughly a quarter of power used in the state from renewable resources, 20 percent from hydroelectric and 40 percent of its electricity from natural gas generation. Maine has harsh winters, and roughly three-quarters of Maine’s homes use fuel oil to heat their homes, the highest share in the nation. The state restructured its utility industry in 2000, and residential customers who wish to purchase electricity on the competitive market are limited to electricity garnered from renewable resources.
Given its northern location, the amount of sunlight that hits Maine is less than the sunlight that hits states like Arizona and New Mexico, but the state still gets enough sunlight to justify photovoltaic (PV) systems. In fact, the state gets an average of 4.0 to 4.5 kilowatts per hour (kWh) of sunlight per square meter—about the same amount that Pennsylvania gets. Although the state ranks thirty-first in solar capacity, it has seen the amount of capacity installed increase significantly and the cost of solar installation drop substantially over the last few years.
Maine commissioned a landmark study, released in 2015, which determined that the value of solar far exceeds current electricity generation. In response, the state legislature adopted “Value of Solar” (VOS) pricing, which calculates the value of solar over an extended period of time to offset the costs of solar generation today. This program will eventually replace net metering and other incentives.