ORIGINAL REPORTING: Maine’s Almost Solar Policy Breakthrough
How Maine's power players reacted to its pathbreaking new solar proposal
Herman K. Trabish, March 24, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Since this story ran, the solar proposal was passed by Maine’s legislature with huge majorities but was vetoed by Maine’s go-his-own-way Governor and fell just 2 votes short of a veto override effort by lawmakers. Utility and stakeholder members of the coalition backing the proposal uniformly regard this as a crucial missed effort.
L.D. 1649 would replace the state's current retail rate net energy metering (NEM) policy with a system of market-based incentives for residential solar generators. More than 100 stakeholders turned out for the initial public hearings to weigh in on the proposed policy. The vast majority supported the bill, including ReVision Energy, Maine’s biggest solar installer, multiple smaller installers, and the Maine Renewable Energy Association. Also supporting were Sierra Club Maine, Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and the Conservation Law Foundation. Both Maine’s investor-owned utilities (IOUs), Central Maine Power (CMP) and Emera Maine, have also endorsed the bill. The Maine Council of Churches and the American Lung Association jumped on the bandwagon as well.
Not all renewable energy interests backed the new proposal, however. Two key detractors spoke up without formally opposing the bill, the state's head regulator released new cost estimates on the plan, and a key member of the coalition that wrote the bill backed away from it, raising questions about the fate of the newly-proposed policy. A spokesperson for national solar installer Sunrun, which is not in Maine’s solar market but has a big stake in the national NEM debate, said a key fix to the bill would be to keep Maine’s existing NEM policy in place alongside the new plan so as not to risk the value proposition of solar. The bill's backers said this would defeat the purpose of the legislation. Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) Chair Mark Vannoy also surprised bill backers by offering a critique that contained data the commission had not previously disclosed. But Timothy R. Schneider, head of the Office of the Public Advocate, said the plan would likely generate long-term net direct benefits to ratepayers of more than $55 million… click here for more
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