Maine governor vetoes solar bill that would end retail rate net metering

Dive Brief:

  • Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed a bill on Wednesday aimed at revising Maine's net metering policy and boosting solar in the state, the Portland Press Herald reports.
  • The legislation aimed to eliminate the current retail rate net metering program and instead require 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 then bid the generation into New England electricity markets in what would be one of the first wholesale aggregations of small-scale solar. 
  • Clean energy advocates plan to persuade lawmakers to override the veto, but the legislature appears to lack the two-thirds super-majority required to do so. The veto came after several compromises made by lawmakers to align the bill with Gov. LePage's desire to ensure it would not "add to the burden of ratepayers."

Dive Insight:

Gov. LePage was never a fan of the bill and his veto came as no surprise. The bill, which garnered more than enough support in the Senate, struggled to make it through the House but passed 91-56. Even so, lawmakers tried to compromise with the governor to ensure the bill's survival. But Gov. LePage was not happy with the final result, he said in his veto message. 

“I tried to negotiate in good faith with Democrats to reach a compromise that would not add to the burden of ratepayers,” LePage wrote. “I requested that the bill include all renewables, return all renewable energy credits (RECs) to ratepayers and have a cap on the price we pay in long-term contracts. We could not reach an agreement. They are not serious about reducing the price of energy for Maine families or job creators.”

House Rep. Sara Gideon (D), who introduced the bill, said the price cap requested by the governor would have "tanked this market immediately," according to the Portland Press Herald. While the Democratic Party and the state's utilities Central Maine Power and Emera Main supported the bill, Republican members opposed it, citing it as another policy that would subsidize solar systems at the expense of ratepayers. 

Maine's lawmakers last year directed policy makers to come up with a new net metering plan last year as stakeholders aimed to boost the state's nascent solar market. The subsequent bill brought together clean energy advocates and investor-owned utilities in endorsing the bill, and would have increased Maine's solar capacity from 20 MW to 198 MW over the next four years. 

The next step is to see if lawmakers can snare enough support to override the veto, but that prospect looks fairly bleak in the House, where the bill's passage stopped short to snare enough votes for a veto override. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article said the bill passed the House just barely. That is incorrect. The House passed the bill 91-56. 


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Filed Under: Regulation & Policy
Top image credit: Mark Goebel flickr