Solar advocates push Maine lawmakers to preserve net metering
- A newly formed association for solar advocates in Maine, Solar Energy Association of Maine, is petitioning the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) to preserve the current net metering policy that compensates distributed solar users for excess energy sent to the grid, PV Tech reports.
- The MPUC is conducting a proceeding to evaluate the state's net metering policy and weigh alternative policies aimed at soloar growth. One of those alternatives is a market-based solution submitted by Maine’s legislature and endorsed by Revision Energy, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and the energy subcommittee of the Maine Association of Building Efficiency Professionals, which includes many solar installers.
- Thus far, the petition has garnered more than 4,000 signatures by the end of last week, with the association saying that eliminating net metering "threatens Mainers' ability to make private investments to generate their own electricity.
Maine's solar sector might be small, but major policy evolutions for distributed solar are underway in the nascent market. Some of these evolutions include net metering and the value of solar.
In June of last year, Maine’s Office of the Public Advocate Mission, which focuses on utility customers, paired up with a state lawmaker to lead a joint committee of the Maine'’s Legislature to pass a bill that would give solar developers a chance to opt out of net metering at every level to capture more of the value of solar.
The proposal is a multi-tiered market-based aggregation credit that incorporates a reverse auction mechanism (RAM) for developers of commercial-industrial and utility-scale projects to bid competitively. A neutral Standard Buyer agency would pick the offers that come in at the lowest prices and aggregate and sell renewables-generated electricity into all available markets to monetize the full value of solar.
In Maine, the Solar Energy Association of Maine said that dominant utility Central Maine Power is partnering with out-of-state interests to push out local competition posed by distributed solar, the news outlet report.
National utility trade group the Edison Electric Institute was one such entity to get involved in Maine's net metering debate, according to PV Tech. In addition to the local flurry surrounding net metering, Senator Angus King (I-Maine) partnered with Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) for an amendment to the U.S. Senate Energy Bill that would protect net metering for residential distributed solar.
California regulators just voted to keep the retail rate credit in place but will reconsider it in 2019. Nevada regulators last month voted to incrementally lower the credit value to below the wholesale electricity rate by 2020. Hawaii regulators voted last fall to replace NEM with a new incentive system.
Net metering has been an ongoing debate in many states. Solar advocates argue the solar value proposition is compromised by a reduced credit. Utilities argue their non-solar owning customers bear an unfair share of system cost because of solar owners reduced bills.