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DISCLAIMER: This blog is published for general information only - it is not intended to constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by any person as legal advice. While we welcome you to contact our authors, the submission of a comment or question does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and you.


Seeking Competition Among the Uncompetitive: Maine PUC Must Define “Competitive” in Biomass Subsidy Proceeding

What makes a competitive bidding process “competitive”? The Maine PUC is currently grappling with this question in Docket No. 2016-00084 in which it is tasked with awarding contracts for up to 80MW of biomass generation. Under a new law, P.L. 2015, ch. 483, the PUC must solicit bids from eligible biomass resources. Lawmakers passed the bill to support Maine’s forest products industry, which has suffered as a result of a string of mill closures in recent years. Under the law, the PUC may enter into “above-market” contracts with biomass generators and pay for the above-market costs from special revenue funds to shield ratepayers from higher energy costs that would result from the contracts. The law is designed to help loggers and other forest service employees that rely on biomass generators, which are struggling to compete against low oil and gas prices.

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Maine PUC Opens New Proceeding to Explore Changes to Net Metering Rules

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.

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Maine PUC Opens Proceeding to Distribute RGGI Funds to Large Energy Consumers

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.

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After Solar Bill Fails to Muster Veto-Proof Support, PUC Will Decide Fate of Net Metering 

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.

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Hughes v. Talen Energy: Supreme Court Strikes Down Maryland Generation Subsidy on Narrow Grounds

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.

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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.

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Maine Solar Bill Proposes to Expand Capacity Without Net Metering

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.

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