Maine net metering dismantling pushed back to May

Maine may not be the largest solar market, but it has been the site of one of the fiercest and most bitter battles over net metering in the United States. Yesterday the long struggle of the solar industry to prevent the program from being disassembled by Maine’s idiosyncratic governor, Paul LePage (R), and the regulators he has appointed took another turn, with the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) delaying implementation of the new rules for another four months until May 2018.

MPUC did not issue or a statement or respond to pv magazine requests for clarification as to the reason for the substantial delay by press time. However, advocates have not been short of comment, with Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) describing it as a “small victory” and calling for “termination of this harmful rule”.

“Today the PUC admitted that neither they nor utilities actually know how to implement their anti-solar rule,” stated NRCM Clean Energy Director Dylan Voorhees. “Neither can yet provide solar installers or potential customers with the necessary information and guidance to implement the new rule or even say who it will apply to.”

The new rules will diminish compensation for behind-the-meter PV systems by 10% annually and additionally impose a fee on solar customers for electricity that they consume onsite. However other details remain unclear, which has not impressed NRCM.

“Adding insult to injury, the PUC then abdicated its responsibility to come up with the details needed to implement the rule, saying that the utilities could figure it out,” declared Voorhees. “Deferring to utilities seems to be what this PUC does best.”

Voorhees does note that the delay gives legislators another opportunity to overturn the changes, which have been pushed by Governor LePage. A compromise plan to transfer to a net metering successor program was vetoed by LePage last summer, with the Maine House of Representatives falling two votes short of overturning the veto in August.

“This delay gives lawmakers the time they need to stop Maine from sliding further backward on solar by overturning the harmful parts of this rule before it takes effect. Legislation to do that gained broad bipartisan support last year and we urge lawmakers to take swift action along similar lines in January.”