House Republicans Members of Energy Committee Propose Alternative To Solar Bill

House GOP option better protects ratepayers and provides guidance to the PUC in net metering review

Augusta – Wednesday afternoon, House Republicans on the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee proposed a 3-part alternative to LD 1649 “An Act To Modernize Maine’s Solar Power Policy and Encourage Economic Development.”

This alternative proposed by Rep. Nathan Wadsworth (R) of Hiram, the ranking House Republican on the EUT Committee, protects ratepayers and provides the Public Utilities Commission the policy guidance they need as they review net energy billing. It also places in statute a right for Mainers to generate their own power, whether it be solar, biomass, hydro etc.

 

Mark Vannoy of the Public Utilities Commission testified before the EUT Committee on the impact LD 1649 in its original form would have on Maine ratepayer saying “the cost to ratepayers could be in the range of $22 million per year…”

 

“Maine people and businesses are already paying too much for energy and adding another $22 million per year on top of that is just bad policy,” said Rep. Wadsworth. “This alternative does not expose Maine ratepayers to 20-year long-term contracts at above market rates. It protects Maine ratepayers from the types of increases the PUC has warned us about with LD 1649. My proposal also expands opportunities for municipal and community distributed energy resource projects and shields the roughly 400 jobs tied to the solar industry from the uncertainty of these long-term contracts. I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.”

 

“At a time when we see our mills are closing their doors due in part to high energy costs we should not even be considering a bill that threatens to drive those costs even higher,” said Rep. Larry Dunphy (U) of Embden. “Maine has some of the highest energy costs in the nation. Let’s start working on policy that addresses the problem, not exacerbates it. That is why I support this amendment and vehemently oppose LD 1649 in its original form.”

 

House GOP Alternative:

 

Section 1: Preserves net metering, by declaring net energy billing to be a customer right. Section 1 of the amendment declares that customers of a transmission and distribution utility have the right to participate in net energy billing in accordance with PUC rules.  It authorizes the PUC to amend its rules and adopt rates for prospective customers to fairly reflect the costs and benefits of net metering.  We preserve the consumer ‘s right to self-generate but make it clear that the PUC is to set rules and rates to be fair to all consumers.

 

Section 2: Directs the PUC to amend its net metering rules to provide for municipal and community distributed energy resource projects.  Municipalities could net meter projects up to 5 megawatts in capacity against any number of municipal accounts.  Community, or shared ownership, projects could be up to 1 megawatt in capacity and could be net metered against up to 50 shared ownership customer accounts.  (By contrast, today municipalities and shared ownership project participants are limited to 660 kilowatts and 10 total accounts.)  As under net energy billing today, these programs would be technology neutral — available not just for solar, but also any other technologies qualified under Maine’s renewable portfolio standard.

 

Section 3: Requires the PUC to retain an experienced consultant to assist it in any review it makes of its net energy billing rules, and prescribes specific issues for such a review, including concerns over maintaining jobs and minimizing disruption of the industry and consumer investments.

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