In response to a petition (Docket No. 2016-000008) filed last June by Central Maine Power, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) approved a Notice of Rulemaking on September 13 on Chapter 313, the Customer Net Energy Billing Rule.
The modification to the Pine Tree State’s net energy metering regulations will explicitly authorize community net metering and will increase the size of eligible customer facilities.
To date, generation that a customer uses from his or her own rooftop facility has been offset by a kilowatt-hour (kWh) credit – representing energy plus transmission and distribution charges. The major changes to the proposed rule. effective in January 2017, are summarized below:
- As new customers sign up over the next 10 years, netting of the transmission and distribution (T&D) portion of their bills will be reduced gradually to reflect changes in the costs of small renewable generation technology.
- Netting regarding the supply portion of the customers’ bill will remain unchanged.
- The size cap for an eligible customer facility is proposed to increase by 50 percent, from 660 kW to 1,000 kW.
- Community net energy billing is explicitly authorized.
- Consumer protections and transparency in community net energy billing and leasing arrangements will be mandated.
- Existing net energy billing customer arrangements would be grandfathered for a 15 year period.
“The commission received many comments over the last several months regarding this topic” noted PUC Chairman Mark Vannoy. “In light of changes in the technology and costs of small renewable generation, particularly solar PV, we felt that opening a rulemaking process to consider changes to the rule was the prudent course of action to ensure that all ratepayers are treated fairly
“We look forward to receiving comments on the proposed rule from interested parties and the public,” stated Vannoy.
The issue of net energy metering has been controversial in Maine. Last April, Governor Paul LePage (R) vetoed a bill that proposed to replace the current net metering program with one that required utilities to purchase and aggregate solar generation from private solar owners and utility-scale developers under long-term contracts. The legislation would have, effectively, eliminated retail net metering in the state because it mandated that utilities would then bid the generation into New England electricity markets in what would be one of the first wholesale aggregations of small-scale solar.
In his veto letter, LePage said the bill would increase the costs of doing business in Maine, as well as for homes and businesses that cannot afford solar panels “by tens of millions of dollars – picking winners and losers in Maine’s energy mix,” according to a report in the local Portland Press Herald.