Maine net energy billing

Friday, January 13, 2012

Maine's net energy billing program gives electricity consumers have the opportunity to offset their electric bill by generating electricity themselves.  This not only supports small-scale and some community-based renewable and efficient electric generation, but can provide customers a significant financial incentive.

Net energy billing is Maine's form of net metering, which allows electric customers with small-scale wind generators, solar panels or other renewable and efficient generation units to sell the power they produce to the utility grid.  In exchange, the utility banks credits that are used to offset the customer's bill for power purchased from the grid.  If the customer generates more electricity in a month than it uses, credits can be banked and carried forward for a 12-month period to offset future bills.

Net energy billing customers can not only sell their power to the grid and bank it for later, but also receive a favorable exchange rate.  Most electric generators who sell to the grid are paid a relatively low wholesale rate, but net energy billing customers are credited at the higher retail rate.  This can provide participating customers a significant financial edge, and could be used to enhance the value of existing community-scale renewable generation such as a small hydroelectric facility.

Maine has offered various forms of net metering since 1987, making it an early leader in the practice.  Many other states have adopted net metering programs, and Congress has directed states to make net metering available to consumers.  Maine's net energy billing program has evolved over time, and now applies to a variety of technologies including solar photovoltaics, wind, biomass, small hydroelectric, hydrokinetic or tidal, geothermal electric, renewable-based fuel cells, and micro-combined heat and power (micro-CHP).

Maine's net energy billing program has several special features.  Generation projects don't have to be located at the same place as the net metering customer.  Maine allows virtual net metering, where a generator meter can be netted against its owner's meter no matter where each is located, as long as both are in the same utility's service territory.

Maine also allows customers to pool together to develop a net metering project.  This so-called "shared ownership billing" allows multiple customers with an ownership interest in a project to share in the benefits of net metering, and may enable more cost-effective projects through the economies of scale.

On top of all this, customers can combine the benefits of net metering with other incentives.  For example, such as grant and rebate funding for qualified projects through state-level energy offices or program support through several federal agencies.

Here are links to the net metering webpages of Maine's three large utilities: Central Maine Power, Bangor Hydro-Electric, and Maine Public Service.

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