Maine net metering battle heads to court
- Maine's highest court will hear oral arguments on Wednesday in a challenge to new rules and rates for rooftop solar. The new rules are scheduled to go into effect April 30, 2018.
- The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) challenged the rules in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Dec. 13. According to the Associated Press, the group's lawsuit centers on whether the new solar rules comply with state law.
- Earlier this year, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved changes to the state's net metering policies, slowly reducing new customer rates each year. A bipartisan effort in the state legislature failed when Gov. Pal LePage vetoed bill to roll back the decision, and lawmakers lacked sufficient support to override the veto.
For installers, a lot is riding on CLF's challenge to the Maine rules. CLF Maine Director Sean Mahoney called them "senseless," and says they put the state's clean energy growth in jeopardy.
"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," Mahoney said in a statement. "We need to eliminate this disastrous policy, not just procrastinate its implementation.”
The Public Utilities Commission voted last week to delay implementing the state's new solar rules, which had been set to take effect Jan. 1. They now go into effect April 30, 2018.
The new rules grandfather an existing customer's rate for 15 years but slowly reduce new customer rates each year. As new customers sign up over the next 10 years, netting of the transmission and distribution portion of the customer's bill will be "gradually decreased to reflect reductions in the costs of small renewable generation technology." In the first year, customers will receive the full value of the supply portion, and 90% of the T&D portion for the next 15 years.
Gov. LePage is a staunch critic of net metering, and had said the PUC's new rates did not go far enough to deal with the so-called "cost-shift" of grid upkeep to non-solar customers. State lawmakers passed a measure that would have overridden the PUC and rolled back rates, but they were just a few votes shy of overriding LePage's veto.
The state Senate overrode the veto in a vote of 28-6, but the 88-48 margin in the House was three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.
- Associated Press Challenge to solar rules heads to court
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