Delays Implementation Until May 1, 2018
Statement by Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director, Natural Resources Council of Maine
“Today the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) reckoned with some of the flaws in their ill-conceived and harmful net metering rollback, deciding to delay implementation by four months. This is a small victory, considering what Maine people really want is the permanent termination of this harmful rule. The PUC net metering rule threatens solar industry jobs here in Maine, and undermines efforts by homeowners and businesses to pursue solar energy as a long-term, cost-saving strategy.
“Today the PUC admitted that neither they nor utilities actually know how to implement their anti-solar rule. Neither can yet provide solar installers or potential customers with the necessary information and guidance to implement the new rule or even say who it will apply to.
“Last year the PUC failed to even determine whether their net metering changes would help or hurt consumers before they adopted it. Their flawed rule includes an unprecedented and illegal new tax that solar customers will have to pay on power they consume onsite. This is not only grossly unfair, it is extremely complex to implement. Adding insult to injury, the PUC then abdicated its responsibility to come up with the details needed to implement the rule, saying that the utilities could figure it out. Deferring to utilities seems to be what this PUC does best.
“This delay gives lawmakers the time they need to stop Maine from sliding further backward on solar by overturning the harmful parts of this rule before it takes effect. Legislation to do that gained broad bipartisan support last year and we urge lawmakers to take swift action along similar lines in January.
“It is going to take leadership from the Legislature to increase access to solar power for Maine homes and businesses, which brings with it the potential for many good new jobs across the state and lower energy costs for all consumers.
“Central Maine Power (CMP), having just spent tens of millions of their customers’ money on a new billing system, recently told the PUC it will need to spend another $300,000 to accommodate the rule. They keep moving the goal posts, making it harder for policymakers and regulators to protect consumers.
“Make no mistake, today’s decision is not the end of attacks on solar customers from monopoly utilities like CMP or the one-sided, anti-solar LePage-appointed PUC. The PUC is still moving forward with a different set of rule changes, essentially written by CMP, to make it more costly for solar customers to connect to the grid. And last week the PUC voted to hand control over alternatives to transmission projects—alternatives like solar and energy efficiency— to the utilities, despite the massive financial incentive utilities have to prefer massive transmission spending over lower-cost alternatives. This is asking the fox to guard the henhouse and the hens are every Maine electricity consumer.