Maine regulators shorten delay of net metering rules, catching installers by surprise
- The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Wednesday determined that a delay in implementing new net metering rules would be shortened by more than six weeks, catching the solar industry completely unaware.
- Last year, Maine approved new solar rules that would gradually decrease the compensation to customers with solar panels on their home. Regulators agreed to delay implementation until April 30, as technical aspects of the new rules were sorted out.
- But regulators, under pressure from Gov. Paul LePage (R), have moved the implementation date up to March 16, after which new solar customers will receive declining compensation for energy sent back to the grid, The Maine Press Herald reports.
LePage's dislike of net metering is well known, and in December, he sent a letter to the PUC asking it to let the new rules take effect Jan. 1, 2018. Instead, it appears the commission has trimmed six weeks off the delay, throwing many planned solar projects into disarray. Projects in place before the new deadline will receive compensation under the current rules; after the deadline, the declining compensation scheme will be in effect.
The Press Herald spoke with one installer, Insource Renewables, which has more than two dozen projects planned to be up before the end of April. What happens to projects planned around the previous, April 30 deadline, but which are brought online after March 16, is uncertain; the commission has indicated those decisions will be made on individual projects.
Lawmakers last summer passed legislation to roll back the PUC decision on net metering, but LePage vetoed it, as he had before. LePage had previously vetoed a bill aimed at boosting the state's rooftop solar resources.
In his veto letter, LePage said net metering "subsidizes the cost of solar panels at the expense of the elderly and poor who can least afford it. We need to move away from this unsustainable practice.”
The new rules grandfather an existing customer's rate for 15 years, but slowly reduce new customer rates each year.
- Press Herald Rooftop solar customers take loss in PUC decision
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