Maine long-term contracting for electricity

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Maine energy regulators have asked for public comment on the goals and objectives for a decade-old program supporting long-term contracts between utilities and independent power producers.  At stake is the future of Maine's long-term contracting program for electricity resources.

In 2006, the Maine State Legislature enacted an Act to Enhance Maine’s Energy Independence and Security, P.L. 2005, ch. 677.  Part C of that Act (codified at 35-A M.R.S. § 3210-C) authorizes the Maine Public Utilities Commission to direct transmission and distribution utilities to enter into long-term contracts for capacity and energy.  The statute directs the Commission to conduct a competitive solicitation for contracts at least every three years, and specifies the framework that the Commission must use in selectingcapacity resources for contracting, including a stated priority list of types of resources and a duty to select lowest price offers.

Since the Act's enactment, the Commission has conducted five solicitations under this program (including the current solicitation, under which proposals are due by May 1, 2015).  In each case, the Commission has hired an outside consultant to forecast relevant markets for energy, capacity, and renewable energy credits to be used in evaluating the value of the market products offered in responsive bids.

Today, the Commission issued a Notice of Inquiry into the goals and objectives for long-term contracting under the Act.  In the notice, the Commission asks for public comment on how long-term contracts can most effectively be used to support the development of increased generation from renewable resources, and reduce price volatility and greenhouse gas emissions; how the Commission should evaluate proposals' price reduction benefits; and how to best structure transactions.

The Commission also asked for comment on relatively novel potential uses of the program, including leveraging federal support for energy programs to benefit Maine ratepayers, increasing in-state generation capacity such that Maine would “separate” from the rest of New England in the regional forward capacity market to yield reduced in-state prices for capacity, and "geo-targeting" capacity resources to avoid transmission and distribution costs more effectively.

Finally, the Commission requested feedback on its long-term contracting process.  Should the Commission issue requests for proposal on a set schedule (e.g. every two years), or should it retain discretion as to when to issue an RFP?  Should the process include fixed dates for key milestones like submission of final bids or Commission decisions, or should it remain flexible and unfixed?

Comments are due to the Maine Public Utilities Commission by May 6, 2015.

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