Statement of Dylan Voorhees, Climate and Clean Energy Project Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine
“We thank and congratulate the Maine Senate for giving its overwhelming support to a common sense bill that protects consumers, creates jobs, and expands opportunities for community solar. With its vote of 28-5 (with 2 supportive Senators absent, forecasting a full, final vote of 30-5), solar legislation has once again won strong bipartisan support. That began with Republicans leaders like Senators Woodsome and Saviello and Representative Harvell who all sponsored and helped craft this legislation.
“The bottom line for this bill is: failure to adopt it will result in customers installing solar being forced to pay monopoly utilities new fees on the power they consume onsite. The cost of this complex, unprecedented new scheme will be borne by all ratepayers, unless the House and Senate work together to override the governor’s inevitable veto. We must prevent Maine’s anti-solar regulatory environment from getting worse. Municipalities across the state are eager to build larger, cost-effective solar farms that lower energy bills, but many are stymied by an outdated, arbitrary 10-meter limit. As the bill moves to the House, we urge lawmakers to set aside rhetoric and talking points and focus on the actual language in this 250-word bill.”
In its current form, LD 1444 is the most modest, slimmed down piece of “solar” legislation considered by the Maine Legislature in the last several years. (The word “solar” does not appear in the bill; it applies to all forms of self-generation.) It does only two things: lifts an arbitrary 10-person limit on shared-interest projects such as community solar farms, and prohibits so-called “gross metering” under which utilities effectively charge customers for power they produce and consume behind the meter. The complexity and cost of gross metering is what led the Public Utilities Commission to delay the start date from January 1, 2018 to May 1, 2018. The bill does not prevent the Commission from continuing its planned reductions in the value of bill credits that net metering customers receive for providing excess power onto the grid, something sought by utilities. The 10-person limit on community solar farms dates from when utilities needed to hand-bill for all net-metering customers, which is no longer true.