- National solar installers are voicing opposition to a Maine proposal that aims to replace the state's net metering policy with a market-based approach, saying that net metering is essential to ensure residential solar's growth in the state, the Associated Press reports.
- The legislation (L.D. 1649) was composed through the united efforts of local clean energy advocates and Maine utilities which would eliminate the retail rate net metering credit and require regulated utilities to purchase and aggregate solar generation from private solar owners and utility-scale developers under long term contracts. They would then bid the generation into New England electricity markets in one of the first such fleet aggregations of smaller scale solar.
- But solar installers and advocates such as Sunrun and The Alliance For Solar Choice (TASC) have dispatched lobbyists to the state's capital, started an opinion poll and running a social media campaign to stop a significant part of the legislation from being approved, the news outlet reports.
Maine's diminutive solar sector is facing a so-called "proxy war" as out-of-state utilities and solar installers are waging intense behind-the-scene lobbying over the proposed solar legislation, the AP reports.
The new plan, which Maine's lawmakers directed policy makers to come up with last year, aimes to drive increase the state's nascent solar market tenfold, and brought together the state's utilities and clean energy advocates together to compromise on a plan.
But the policy has already recieved some skepticism from Maine lawmakers and the PUC.
State Rep. Nathan Wadsworth (R) helped crafted the bill (L.D. 1649) to revise the state’s net metering policy, but at nearly the last moment, switched his stance, the Portland Press Herald reported. Wadsworth released a statement to the news outlet telling the PUC to “stay the course on net metering, protect existing solar customers installers and the 400 jobs tied to the solar industry.”
Meanwhile, PUC Chair Mark Vannoy testified at a hearing earlier this month over the bill that the plan could add $22 million to Maine ratepayers’ electricity bills by 2020. But Maine Public Advocate Tim Schneider, who co-wrote the proposal and has done rigorous modeling of its impacts, said it is likely provide $55 million in ratepayer benefits over its 20-year contract period.
Sunrun, a veteran of several net metering policy battles nationwide, is the third biggest U.S. residential solar installer but not currently operating in the Maine solar market. Sunrun spokesman Chris Rauscher said a key fix would be to keep Maine’s existing net metering policy in place alongside the new plan.
“The problem with side-by-side net metering is that is not what the legislature said to do,” CMP Communications Director John H. Carroll observed. “It is not an ‘alternative’ to keep doing NEM and try this.”
The MPUC would review the program after 18 months or the procurement of 21 MW, whichever comes sooner. If capacity targets are not met, the commission will revise it, and if flaws become evident and cannot be rectified, the commission will terminate the program and re-initiate the current net metering policy.