Maine Senate fights back with bill to fix solar policies

Maine has been the site of one of the fiercest battles over net metering seen to date in the United States. Under the leadership of the state’s idiosyncratic governor, Paul LePage (R), state regulators have implemented a policy which will reduce the compensation for electricity generated by behind-the-meter PV systems 10% annually.

Perhaps the most damning aspect of this policy – which is set to start two weeks from now – is that it will not only reduce compensation for electricity exported to the grid, but also the value of that produced and consumed by homeowners, an abuse of utility power described as “gross metering”.

Yesterday the Maine Senate fought back by passing a bill 28-5 that would remove “gross metering” and allow full compensation for electricity generated and consumed within a monthly period, while still retaining the 10% decline in compensation for electricity exported to the grid (calculated monthly).

The bill would also allow up to 50 customers to participate in shared-interest projects including community solar, up from the current limit of 10.

The bill must still pass the Maine House, which Natural Resources Council of Maine Clean Energy Director Dylan Voorhees describes as “the more difficult chamber”. From there it will inevitably be vetoed by Governor LePage, who has been known to rant about solar in his frequent radio tirades, usually repeating the “cost-shift” myth.

This means that for these changes to become law, the bill will need to override a veto. Maine’s Legislature often attempts to override vetoes by LePage, however again the House will be the more difficult chamber as it contains more of the governor’s allies.

This exact situation played out last August, when the Maine House failed to override a LePage veto of a compromise bill on net metering by a mere two votes.