Maine solar advocates push for reconsideration of net metering

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At the present moment, Maine’s solar industry is not looking forward to a bright future. After Governor Paul LePage (R) vetoed legislation to provide a comprehensive policy framework for solar last April, the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a ruling to dismantle net metering and charge home and business owners for self-consumption of solar PV.

Both the veto and the regulatory battle were bitterly contested by the state’s solar advocates, who were back at the state capitol today, asking the PUC to reconsider.

The petition for reconsideration was filed by Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), Conservation Law Foundation, and two local solar energy companies, and backed by over 2,000 Maine residents and 24 environmental groups, local government entities and businesses. And while Governor LePage’s appointees at PUC have 20 days to respond, advocates concede that they are unlikely to do so.

“I think the chances of them responding are low, but we want to give them every last chance to do that,” explained NRCM Climate and Clean Energy Director Dylan Voorhies.

However, this is only the first shot in solar advocates’ attempts to overturn LePage’s assault on distributed solar in the state. NRCM has been working with state Representative Seth Berry (D-Bowdoinham) to put forward a bill that would establish net metering in law, such that PUC could not dismantle it, as well as allowing for third-party solar and resurrecting incentives in the state.

This will be one of half a dozen or so bills which NRCM expects to address net metering in the state, which will be assembled in Maine’s legislative sausage works into a comprehensive solar proposal. “The easiest and best thing would be for the legislature to move forward with a strong bill,” notes Voorhies.

NRCM expects the Berry bill to be printed shortly, and to come to a public hearing in April.