Maine delays plan to reduce payments to rooftop solar customers
- The Maine Public Utilities Commission yesterday voted to delay implementing the state's new solar rules, which would phase down the net metering compensation for customers with rooftop panels. The rules had been set to take effect at the end of the month but have now been pushed back to April 30, 2018.
- Proponents of net metering, led by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), have sued to overturn the PUC's decision. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is set to hear arguments in the case on Dec. 13.
- Maine lawmakers tried to reverse the course set by the PUC, and passed a law to roll back its decision to phase down net metering. However, the bipartisan effort was not sufficient to overcome a veto from Gov. Paul LePage (R).
The Maine solar industry is breathing a little easier today, but the latest development only delays the rules' final implementation by four months and is not a long-term fix.
CLF Maine Director Sean Mahoney, in a statement, said regulators delayed implementation "to avoid an inevitable catastrophe. But delaying implementation doesn’t fix the fact that this rule hurts businesses and families, hampers our energy independence, and harms one of the fastest growing sectors of Maine’s economy."
"We need to eliminate this disastrous policy, not just procrastinate its implementation," said Mahon, who added that it will jeopardize the growth of the state's solar industry.
Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director of Natural Resources Council of Maine, said utilities and regulators simply don't yet know what to do about the rule. The decision to delay means "PUC admitted that neither they nor utilities actually know how to implement their anti-solar rule," said Voorhees. "Neither can yet provide solar installers or potential customers with the necessary information and guidance to implement the new rule or even say who it will apply to."
Over the summer, Maine lawmakers passed a bill to roll back the PUC's decision to phase down the net metering compensation, and called for a cost-benefit analysis of the policy. In vetoing the bill, LePage said that net metering subsidizes the cost of solar panels "at the expense of the elderly and poor who can least afford it.”
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