Maine report on distributed solar

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A report by staff of the Maine Public Utilities Commission to a working group convened by New England's electric grid operator describes growth in Maine's solar and other distributed generation resources. The report highlights faster growth in solar resources than some previous forecasts, at the same time that Maine reevaluates its solar net metering policies.

Under existing Maine law, electric utility consumers who develop solar energy projects can choose "net energy billing."  This net metering rate structure lets the customer offset its load from the grid by its own solar power production, with the utility bill based on the customer's net draw from the utility.  In the words of the Maine legislature, "net energy billing is a simple mechanism that has supported the development of distributed generation in Maine."  It is the principle state incentive for residential solar photovoltaic development.

Regional grid operator ISO New England, Inc. has convened a Distributed Generation Forecast Working Group to provide input on the region's long-term distributed generation forecast.  Staff from the Maine Public Utilities Commission recently presented to the working group on Maine's distributed generation growth. According to the December 8 report, solar PV makes up 78% of reported net metering capacity and is the fastest growing component.

The Maine Commission also submitted a forecast developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of "Distributed PV Adoption in Maine through 2021".  Its predicts growth curves for Maine distributed solar generation under several scenarios:


But Maine is in the midst of a reevaluation of its solar energy policy.  In 2015, the legislature enacted a Resolve, "To Create Sustainable Growth in Maine's Distributed Energy Sector That Uses Market Forces To Fairly Compensate Energy Producers" (H.P. 863 - L.D. 1263, 2015).  That Resolve found that "net energy billing may not provide a suitable long-term foundation for distributed generation."

As a result, it directed the the Maine Public Utilities Commission to initiate a Solar Policy Design Stakeholder Process to develop "an alternative to net energy billing that fairly and transparently allocates the costs and benefits of distributed generation to all customers, allows participation by all customers and creates a sustainable platform for future growth of distributed generation to the benefit of all ratepayers."

The Commission stakeholder process is ongoing, under Docket 2015-00218.

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