On Tuesday, the PUC opened a new docket (2016-00120) requesting comments from interested stakeholders about the future of net metering (also known as “net energy billing”). In January, CMP notified the Commission that in 2015 net metering resources had exceeded 1% of CMP’s peak demand, triggering PUC review under the rules. The PUC took no action on CMP’s petition while the Legislature debated LD 1649, a bill that would have replaced net metering with the “Standard Solar Buyer” model that emerged from the solar stakeholder process last fall. That bill failed to overcome Governor LePage’s veto at the end of the session. Now the PUC will decide whether to act on its own to make changes to Maine’s net metering rules.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission recently opened a new docket, 2016-00081, to process refunds to energy intensive manufacturers in Maine out of the fund created by the carbon cap and trade program under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Maine is one of nine New England/Mid-Atlantic states that participate in RGGI. Under the program, CO2 is capped in the participating states and fossil-fuel generators in those states are required to purchase emissions allowances to offset their emissions. In Maine, the money raised from the sale of emissions allowances has been used to fund Efficiency Maine, which promotes energy efficiency for Maine business and residential consumers.
Last Friday, the Maine House came within two votes of overriding Governor LePage’s veto of LD 1649, a bill that would have substantially increased installed solar capacity in Maine. The Senate had previously voted unanimously to override the veto. The bill would have sought to increase solar capacity nearly tenfold in Maine, from 20 MW to 196 MW in 2021. The bill would have phased out net metering in favor of a system of long-term contracts for rooftop solar and provided similar long-term contracts for community and large-scale solar installations.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued its decision (8-0) in Hughes v. Talen Energy striking down a Maryland program that encouraged additional in-state generation. Hughes is the second decision of the term, following FERC v. Electric Power Supply Association, in which the Court has struggled to clarify the increasingly blurry boundary between state and federal jurisdiction over energy policy. In this case, the Court focused on the precise mechanism of the Maryland program which required load serving entities (LSEs) in Maryland to enter into a 20-year pricing contract with a new gas-fired generator owned by CPV Maryland, LLC (CPV). To understand the Court’s holding, it is necessary to understand a bit about FERC’s capacity auctions.
Maine Commission Reviews Non-Transmission Alternative Pilot Project; Opens New Docket to Appoint NTA Coordinator
Eight years ago, Central Maine Power (CMP), Maine’s largest T&D utility, proposed the Maine Power Reliability Program (MPRP)—a comprehensive plan to upgrade transmission resources ensure reliable service to its customers throughout its service territory. As part of an agreement reached in that docket, a Non-Transmission Alternative (NTA) pilot project in Boothbay Harbor was implemented. Grid Solar was selected as the coordinator for the pilot project, which went live in 2013.
On March 10, the Maine Legislature’s Energy, Utilities & Technology Committee reported out a bill that is the culmination of the solar stakeholder process at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The bill sets a target of developing 248 MW of new solar capacity over a five-year period beginning in 2017. The bill defines four categories of solar power development in Maine: grid-scale, large-scale community, commercial and industrial, and residential and small business.
As previously explained here, the most controversial aspect of the new legislation is that it would end net metering (AKA “net energy billing”) for rooftop solar. During the solar stakeholder process at the PUC, a compromise consensus emerged among the utilities, the solar industry, environmental groups, and the Office of the Public Advocate, which represents ratepayers in Maine.
Maine Supreme Judicial Court Affirms MPUC’s Finding that Smart Meters Pose No Credible Health or Safety Threat
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s decision that Central Maine Power Company’s advanced metering infrastructure (“AMI”) system (aka “smart meters”) pose no credible threat to the health and safety of Central Maine Power Company (“CMP”) customers. Friedman v. PUC, 2016 ME 19, — A.3d —. In a lengthy legal battle spanning more than five years, Ed Friedman and other CMP customers, challenged the use of smart meters on health and safety grounds.