Solar advocates in Maine are stinging tonight, as the legislature split on whether to uphold Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of Legislative Document (LD) 1504 (Senate Paper (SP) 529), which would have put into place the long-sought compromise that would have preserved net metering in the state. As a result, efforts to establish new net metering rules has failed for the second straight legislative session.
The Senate voted 28-6 for the override, but the House voted 88-48, falling two votes short of reaching the two-thirds of votes to override LePage’s veto.
The override is a significant boost to LePage’s anti-solar agenda, which has included attempts to eliminate net metering entirely and otherwise put obstacles in the way of Mainers who want to add solar electricity systems to their rooftops. Last September, Maine’s Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) issued a ruling that would have phased out net metering at a severely accelerated rate. After the hue and cry from the public and solar industry forced the MPUC to rescind its initial rule, the battle was joined on what a compromise on net metering would look like.
LePage, in vetoing the bill, wrote:
Unfortunately, enough members of the House bought into LePage’s argument to halt the bill in its tracks.
In January 2016, Central Maine Power Co. informed the commission that solar generation made up approximately 1.04% of its annual peak demand.
As a result, the utility asked for changes to the net-metering rules to reflect its increased impact on the utility’s operations. The commission then offered a proposed rule in September, which received hundreds of comments from affected stakeholders opposing it. Now that the bill has failed, protecting solar net metering in Maine will have to wait until the next legislative session to be brought up again.
The full text of the bill is below: