Maine lawmakers override Gov. LePage's veto of value of solar bill
- Democratic and Republican Maine legislators united to override Republican Governor Paul LePage’s veto of LD 1263, a legislative resolution designed to get past solar net energy metering debates.
- The Democrat-controlled House voted to override by 119 to 28 and the Republican-controlled Senate voted 32 to 3. The bill was supported by a broad coalition of Maine stakeholders, including Central Maine Power, the state’s biggest electricity deliverer, the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, and Revision Energy, the state’s leading solar installer.
- The white paper entitled “A Ratepayer Focused Strategy for Distributed Solar in Maine,” commissioned by the Public Advocate’s office and written by Strategen Consulting, will now be the basis of a Maine Public Utilities Commission proceeding this fall to “develop an alternative to net energy billing” and report to legislators in January 2016.
The Maine bill, entitled "Resolve, To Develop an Alternative to Net Energy Billing that Fairly and Transparently Allocates Costs and Benefits of Distributed Generation to All Customers," is viewed by solar and utility experts as a potential breakthrough in the value of solar debate,
The Strategen white paper offers a new way to use a value of solar study commissioned by the legislature to identify the proper compensation rate for rooftop solar through a multi-tiered Market-based Aggregation Credit (MAC) program. The program will have five objectives:
- An alternative to NEM that is “fair” and “cost-conscious”
- Long-term compensation for solar based on Maine’s value of solar analysis
- A competitive reverse auction mechanism for the commercial-industrial sector and a capacity-based declining block program for residential solar — two market mechanisms designed to drive the price of solar down, while another program provision (objective 5) captures its full value
- The potential for Maine to get to as much as 300 MW of new solar capacity by 2025, with 150 MW from the wholesale segment, 100 MW from the residential and commercial sectors, and 50 MW from industrial and community solar markets
- Procurement by a Standard Buyer agency that would aggregate and sell renewables-generated electricity into all available markets to monetize the full value of solar
A reverse auction mechanism invites developers of commercial-industrial and utility scale projects to bid competitively against other developers to provide renewables capacity. The buyer, in this case the Standard Buyer, would pick the offers that come in at the lowest prices.
In a declining block program the price the Standard Buyer pays for residential solar would be pre-established by the commission. When the state achieves a pre-designated block of capacity, the price the Standard Buyer pays new solar owners will drop to a lower level on the assumption the higher capacity means solar needs less of an incentive and economies of scale should be at work to make unsubsidized solar more affordable.
The Resolve was opposed by TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed) and The Alliance for Solar Choice. Committed to net metering, they argued the Resolve would cause “higher taxes” and “harm the free market.”
Central Maine Power, the state's dominant electric utility, sent Utility Dive a statement expressing conditional support for the new solar law.
"CMP was one of many stakeholders representing a broad range of interests who worked this spring to create the resolve directing the Maine Public Utilities Commission to develop an alternative to net energy billing and report back to the Legislature by Jan. 30, 2016," Gail Rice, a spokesperson for the utility, wrote in an email. "We are happy to see the Legislature give its final approval to this resolve, and we hope the state can develop new policy that can continue to value solar and provide benefits customers who use it, while at the same time, impose minimal burden on other ratepayers."
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect comments from Central Maine Power.