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Smart Meter Opt-Out for CMP Customers Approved by MPUC

During Tuesday’s deliberations, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved smart meter opt-out options for Central Maine Power customers.  The Commission approved two smart meter opt-out options: (1) the option of installing a smart meter with its transmitter turned off and (2) the ability to retain the existing analog meter.  Additionally, customers may choose to relocate smart meters to a different location on the customer’s property, at the customer’s expense.

Both opt-out choices come with costs that must be paid by the customers who select to opt out.  Choosing a digital smart meter with the wireless transmitter turned off will carry an initial charge of $20, plus a $10.50 monthly charge.  Retaining an existing mechanical meter will cost $40 initially, plus a $12 monthly charge.  Low-income residents may qualify for a 50% subsidy of the opt-out cost.  Depending on how many customers ultimately choose something other than a standard smart meter, the costs may be adjusted in the future. So far, an estimated 1% of all customers have asked not to have the new meters installed at their homes and businesses.

Commissioner Vafiades emphasized the need to move forward by shifting the focus to the benefits of smart meters, while allowing those who reject smart meters to opt out: “Based on sound public policy, as allowed by statute and taking into consideration all public correspondence and filings, we conclude that offering a smart meter opt-out options is reasonable and in the public interest. For the long term success of smart meter implementation and to maximize its potential to the fullest, the public needs to be actively engaged in monitoring their usage and real-time price of electricity and modifying their behavior accordingly. To achieve this goal, we need to shift the focus to the benefits of smart meters and allow the small minority to opt out.”

Commissioner Littell noted the Commission’s thorough review of customer concerns and the range of options now available: “We have reviewed every filing, every complaint and every letter sent to this Commission regarding smart meters. Based on our review, we conclude that any CMP residential or small commercial customer should have four choices: 1) the default smart meter which will become the standard meter in CMP territory; 2) the ability to select a smart meter with the transmitter-off; 3) the ability to keep the customer’s existing analog meter; or, 4) the ability to move the new smart meters elsewhere on their property at the customer’s expense.”


Energy News Roundup: April 2-April 8

This week in regional energy news …


Tom Welch Confirmed as Newest Maine PUC Commissioner

Today, the Maine Senate confirmed Tom Welch as commissioner of the Maine PUC.  Welch will take over the seat of Commissioner Jack Cashman, who will vacate the position he has held since 2008. 

Yesterday, the Utilities and Energy Committee unanimously recommended Welch’s confirmation.  Welch previously served as a PUC commissioner from 1993 to 2005.

See our announcement of Governor LePage’s nomination of Tom Welch here.


Energy News Roundup: March 26-April 1

This week in regional energy news …


ISO New England Preliminary Forecast Predicts Continued Growth 

ISO New England’s preliminary 2011 long-term load forecast suggests that economic recovery is starting in New England.  Electricity demand is an indicator of economic health, and ISO New England reports that New England demand grew in 2010.  Moreover, ISO New England’s preliminary projections for 2011 through 2020 predict modest growth in demand in New England.  The preliminary energy forecast for the 2011-2020 period is for a compound annual growth rate of 1.1%, from about 135,460 gigawatt-hours (GWh) this year to 149,150 GWh in 2020.   Adjusted for factors such as energy efficiency, energy is forecasted to grow about 0.8% annually, from 131,130 GWh this year to 140,980 GWh in 2020.

Peak demand (the most amount of electricity used in a single hour in New England) is projected to grow by about 1.4% per year, from a forecasted peak of 27,550 megawatts (MW) this year to about 31,215 MW in 2020.  Adjusted for factors such as energy efficiency, peak demand is forecasted to grow about 1.2% annually, from 26,766 MW this year to 29,917 MW in 2020.


Maine Supreme Court Denies Appeals in Record Hill and Oakfield Wind Power Projects 

The Maine Supreme Court issued two opinions Thursday rejecting appeals of permits issued for the development of the Record Hill Wind project in Roxbury, Maine, and the Oakfield wind power project in Oakfield, Maine.  Today’s opinions upholding the Maine Board of Environmental Protection’s approval of both projects mean that the projects’ permits are now final and non-appealable. 

The Court unanimously affirmed the Board of Environmental Protection’s determination that both wind power projects comply with all relevant permitting standards, including the state’s strictest sound limits.  The opponents had claimed that the Board was required to have held a public hearing, should have found that the projects would result in adverse health effects and didn’t satisfy standards related to decommissioning and financial capacity.  The Court disagreed, rejecting all of the opponents’ arguments.

Writing for the Court in Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury et al. v. Board of Environmental Protection et al. (click to open PDF), Justice Ellen Gorman found that, with respect to the Record Hill Wind project, “the Board’s findings concerning the health effects of wind turbine noise are supported by substantial evidence in the record. The report of the [Maine Center for Disease Control] and the [Department of Environmental Protection’s] noise control consultant’s opinion both support the finding that the Record Hill Wind Project will not generate unreasonable adverse health effects.” 

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MPUC Clarifies Standards for Interconnection of Small Generators

In response to two complaints, the Maine Public Utilities Commission has issued an order clarifying Chapter 324, Small Generator Interconnection Procedures.  Chapter 324 was created to provide uniform standards for the connection of small generators to the electric grid in Maine as a result of increased interest in distributed generation.   The standards in Chapter 324 are an attempt to reduce transaction costs for small generators, allocate interconnection costs between the generator and the utility, set certain technical standards and create predictable outcomes.   

The Commission’s March 16, 2011 Order Regarding Implementation of Interconnection Rules (Ch. 324) clarifies that utilities must provide a “detailed engineering analysis” to an interconnecting customer, so that the customer has a clear understanding of what electrical upgrades may be needed to accommodate the generator before the generator is charged with the costs of upgrades.  In some circumstances, the customer must also be advised of the customer’s right to bring a dispute to the Commission for resolution pursuant to Chapter 324.