Maine

Solar power is a robust issue that is at the forefront of energy policy in Maine.  Conversations regarding the technology are ongoing in the state legislature, regulatory agencies,  and communities around the state.  As recently as April, Maine’s legislature and governor each took substantial measures to further shape the state’s solar energy future.

 

  •  Current and Recent Issues:
    • L.D. 1504 – An Act Regarding Solar Power for Farms and Businesses
      In April 2017, the Maine legislature proposed L.D. 1504, which directs its Public Utilities Commission to implement full retail net energy billing as an option for consumers. This will allow state residents with solar units to avoid assessment, grid maintenance, and operational fees by offsetting the customer’s costs whenever their solar facility is generating more energy than homeowner is consuming. The bill also introduces the small business distributed credit rate program as an alternative to net energy billing for nonresidential consumers. L.D. 1504 provides that an eligible consumer may choose net energy billing or enter into a contract. A consumer that enters into a contract may not opt to net energy billing within the contracted period. However, a consumer may opt into a contract within 12 months of a net energy billing agreement.
    • Public Utilities Commission Grandfathers Net Energy Billing Rule—The Maine Public Utilities Commission issued an order on January 31st, 2017, which grandfathers existing customers at the current incentive levels for 15 years. For new customers after January 1, 2018, incentives will decrease each year, but individual customers will lock in their rates for the remaining years. The Commission held under this new rule, all solar customers will recover their investments in the same amount of time since solar prices will decrease at the same rate that the incentives do. The Commission previously proposed a rule that would have included all customers in the gradual incentive reductions.
    •  Maine governor vetoes solar bill that would end retail rate net metering: In April 2016, Maine’s Governor Paul LePage vetoed a solar bill aimed at eliminating the state’s current net metering program. Instead, the Governor required regulated utilities to purchase and aggregate solar generation from private solar owners and utility-scale developers under long-term contracts. Under the bill, utilities would bid in New England electricity markets in what would be one of the first wholesale aggregations of small-scale solar.
    • L.D.1649 – In March 2016, the Maine legislature proposed L.D. 1649, which directs the Public Utility Commission to form a committee comprised of in-state solar providers, environmental groups, and utilities to develop a plan to eliminate the retail rate net metering credit and replace it with a market-based ‘pay for production’ program that requires utilities to by extra power generated from rooftop and large-scale solar users.
    • Value of Solar StudyDuring its 2014 session, the Maine Legislature enacted an Act to Support Solar Energy Development in Maine. P.L Chapter 562 (April 24, 2014) (codified at 35‐A M.R.S. §§ 3471‐3473) (“Act”). Section 2 of the Act required the PUC to determine the value of distributed solar energy generation in the State, evaluate implementation options, and to deliver a report to the Legislature. For the project, the PUC developed the value of solar methodology through a mediated stakeholder review process, conducted a valuation analysis of distributed solar for three utility territories, and developed a summary of implementation options for increasing deployment of distributed solar generation in the State. The original report, delivered to the Legislature on March 2, 2015, includes three volumes which accompany an Executive Summary. An addendum to the study was delivered to the Legislature on April 1, 2015.
    • Public Utilities Commission Report – The Maine PUC shall submit a report to the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology by January 30, 2016. The report is to include stakeholder discussions, an overview of alternatives under section 1, any areas where stakeholders could not reach consensus, technical specifications, rules or policies needed to carry out the alternative, a proposed timeline for implementation, legal or technical barriers to implementation of the alternative, and any other recommendations the PUC sees fit to make. Accordingly, the committee may report on a bill in the Second Regular Session of the 127th Legislature regarding the report.
  •  Regulatory Agencies:
    • Maine Public Utilities Commission 
      • The PUC participates in Maine’s legislative activity by submitting bills, testifying on bills related to energy policy or utilities, and provides up-to-date information.