(NEWS CENTER) -- Renewable energy is at a crossroads here in Maine.
The Public Utilities Commission is expected to release its ruling on net metering of solar energy by the end of the year.
Energy experts from wind, tidal and solar are pushing for the state to go further: they want the PUC to take a lead in creating a modern grid system.
One local solar company is insisting the state must plan better for the future. "Kind of a fun fact is that Maine actually gets more solar energy than a lot of places even in the Southern U.S.," Josh Baston shares, as he shows off the solar field he helped ‘plant’ just outside of Portland.
Even on an overcast day, there is energy being absorbed by the 598 solar panels Baston installed in
a Westbrook field.
"This is a 200-kilowatt PV array and what this does, it is just in a field. This is just putting power back into the CMP grid. This farm here took about 3 weeks to build," he says proudly as he looks out over the large panels, aligned one next to the other.
Although this is a sign of progress, co-founder of Baston’s company says it’s not enough. "Maine is behind in a lot of ways." Fortunat Mueller, co-founder of Revision energy in Portland is pushing to change that. Mueller says he'd like the state to adopt a plan that would de-carbonize Maine in 50 years.
"We haven't had a statewide energy plan for 10 years. So while we've done little bits of policy around energy, there's no coherent vision for where the state is going."
That vision, Mueller says would include electricity, transportation and heating: all renewable energy driven -- a vision endorsed by world and religious leaders. Solar received a big boost from the Catholic church back in 2015 when Pope Francis released his ‘Encyclical on the Environment’. In it, he called for renewable energy subsidies and energy efficiency. And, in New York, leaders took that seriously. They created the REV program, Reinventing the Energy Vision. Mueller explains, "Where under regulatory pressure the utilities are saying 'ok, we're not going to be a monopoly energy provider, we're going to create a platform where the free market can work, drive down costs and bring people the kind of energy they want which is generally cleaner, greener energy."
On Thursday morning, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is holding a news conference, calling on local governments to move toward a 100%renewable energy, by “examining the actors who prevent solar from expanding, and by highlighting a local example of what the unstable solar market can do”, according to the press release sent to News Center from Strimling, Environment Maine, the Sierra Club and leaders from the Unitarian Universalist Church.