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.
Unlike contentious solar fights that have played out in other states around the country, this bill was the product of a collaborative stakeholder process at the PUC, and the bill ultimately received the support of Maine's solar industry and environmental groups, as well as the major utilities and Maine's Public Advocate, which represents ratepayers. Despite the bill's broad support, Governor LePage vetoed the bill, stating that it would lead to higher electricity costs for businesses and homeowners without solar panels.
Maine solar installations have climbed steadily in recent years, but Maine still lags behind its New England neighbors in installed solar capacity.
PUC to Review Net Metering
Chapter 313 of Maine PUC Rules require T&D utilities to notify the PUC when generation subject to net metering (also called "net energy billing") reaches a capacity of 1% of the utility's peak demand. Earlier this year, Central Maine Power (CMP) notified the PUC that installations have hit the 1% threshold and requested a review of Maine's net metering rules to determine whether they should continue in effect or be modified. With the recent defeat of the solar bill, this proceeding will now decide the future of net metering in Maine.