Last Update: 2017-9-8
Governor LePage and a small minority of extreme anti-renewable lawmakers in the Maine house, supported by utility and fossil fuel interests, again undermined bipartisan compromise and continue to move Maine in the wrong direction on renewable energy policy.
Maine PUC Rule Will Cost All Ratepayers $2M to Tax Solar Producers
LD1504, a Republican sponsored bill with broad bipartisan support, was a narrow effort crafted to fix the most egregious parts of the PUC’s recent amended net metering rules. Those rules bizarrely require CMP and Emera to install costly and cumbersome new meters on all new solar projects for the purpose of assessing a ‘Solar Tax’ or ‘exit fee’ even on solar generation that is used on site and never touches the grid.
Experts estimate that this clumsy and unnecessary new metering paradigm will cost all utility rate payers over $2M over the next several years. Though there was broad consensus on the need to fix this rule and the measure initially passed with a veto-proof majority in both the House and the Senate, an aggressive lobbying and misinformation campaign by the utilities and their allies undermined support from enough lawmakers so that the veto override vote failed by just two votes.
A recent investigative report released by the Energy and Policy Institute documented how Central Maine Power and front groups for national and gas companies used money and political influence to kill the bill.
Maine’s solar industry understands that taxing solar generators for power consumed behind the utility meter (think of it like a grocery store charging you for growing your own vegetables) is not just immoral, but illegal, and solar installers such as ReVision Energy have joined a number of partners in advancing a legal challenge against the Maine PUC’s rule.
What Does this Mean for Solar in Maine?
Our coalition continues to oppose the PUC’s changes to net metering because they are a short sighted policy dead end, inconsistent with existing statute, and because they would be costly for all rate payers (under the rule the unnecessary and illegal ‘exit fee’ meters are paid for by all utility rate payers, not the individual solar customer).
But the effect of the changes on the economics of an individual solar project built in 2018 are actually fairly modest, ranging from under 1% for commercial projects and up to about 5-6% for residential projects. At that level, the changes have only a modest effect on overall project economics or ‘payback’.
Those who want to go forward with a solar project – NOW is still a great time to go solar, especially if you want to send the message that you want to exercise your right to generate your own power over the objections of monopoly, foreign-own corporate utility companies.
We are confident that this dead end rule will eventually be overturned, either by the courts or by the legislature, but even if it is not, solar continues to be THE cheapest way to generate electricity for your own use and an effective way to do your part to mitigate the catastrophic climate effects of continued reliance on fossil fuels.
How Do I Get Involved?
THANK YOU to all of our supporters who have written letters to the editor, met with their state and local reps, attended town meetings, spoken to solar skeptics, etc. over the last couple of years. The ongoing outpouring of grassroots support is the foundation on which the solar coalition has stood and why our industry continues to thrive despite continued policy challenges. This work must continue, and with stronger pressure than ever before.
We continue to advocate for a thoughtful, long term energy policy that evolves beyond the monopoly utility paradigm towards a market based approach which integrates a variety of distributed energy resources (like solar, EV charging, energy storage, and other advanced technologies) into a dynamic, bidirectional smart grid.
The grid we imagine will be cleaner, greener, cheaper and more resilient than the 20th century monopoly utility model and provide a vital boost to Maine’s rural economy by leveraging the incredibly abundant natural local resources of wind, water, and sun. We hope you’ll join us in continuing to advocate for this powerful energy future for Maine’s economy.