Maine renewable energy report released

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Maine Public Utilities Commission has issued its latest annual report on Maine's use of renewable electricity, covering the 2014 calendar year.  The report shows the impact of Maine's renewable portfolio standard, a state law requiring electricity suppliers to source specified percentages of their electricity from renewable resources.  The report found that compliance costs have fallen nearly in half since 2013.

The Maine State House.

Since Maine's electric industry restructuring in 2000, state law has required competitive electricity providers -- retail suppliers -- to procure 30% of their load served from "eligible resources." These are generally defined in statute as renewable or cogeneration facilities.  A 2007 act of the Maine legislature added a mandate that specified percentages of electricity that supply Maine’s consumers be sourced from “new” renewable resources.  Generally, these are renewable facilities that have an in-service date, resumed operation or were refurbished after September 1, 2005.  This "Class I" renewable portfolio standard began at one percent of load in 2008, and increases in one percentage point each year until reaching ten percent in 2017.  The older "eligible resource" standard became known as "Class II."

The 2007 renewables law required the Public Utilities Commission to report annually to the legislature on the program and compliance.  Each year's report is based largely on the most recently filed Competitive Electricity Provider (CEP) annual compliance reports, which are filed each July, covering the prior calendar year.  So there is some lag between the events being tracked and the publication of the report.

The Commission has just released its report covering calendar year 2014. The report notes "approximately 75 certified facilities, with a total capacity of approximately 1220 MW," although some are not operating or are eligible for other states' renewable portfolio requirements.

In 2014, most suppliers complied with the Maine renewable portfolio requirement through the use of renewable energy certificates or RECs.  According to the report, RECs from 22 facilities were used by suppliers to comply with the 2014 new renewable resource requirement.  Of these, 18 are biomass, 3 are hydro, and 1 is a wind facility. 20 of the 22 facilities are located in Maine, one is located in Connecticut and one is located in Massachusetts. Maine facilities, mostly refurbished biomass plants, supplied 99% of the approximately 811,476 RECs purchased to meet the 2014 portfolio requirement.

For calendar year 2014, 78.05% of the Class I RPS requirement was satisfied through the purchase of RECs during that year, 0.0004 % was satisfied through an alternative compliance mechanism, 21.88% was satisfied using RECs banked from 2013 and 0.1130 % will be satisfied during a 2015 cure period allowed by rule. On top of this activity, 181,595 RECs were purchased in 2014 and banked for future use and an additional 8 RECs were purchased where the supplier did not indicate whether the certificates were to be banked or would not be used.

As the Commission notes in its report, "the prices for Maine Class I RECs declined substantially over the two years leading up to 2014. This has occurred because Maine’s portfolio requirement includes, as an eligible resource, refurbished biomass facilities (which are not generally eligible in other New England states)."

One result is that the annual cost of Class I compliance fell roughly in half since the last report, with a total cost of $14,296,249 in 2014 compared to just $6,947,269 in 2013.  The report describes the cost of Class I RECs used for compliance in 2014 as ranging from approximately $1.72 per MWh to $22.33 per MWh, with an average cost of $8.56 per MWh.  Adding $198 for one supplier who satisfied a portion of the portfolio requirement through alternative compliance mechanism at the rate of $66.16 per MWh, the report describes a total Class I compliance cost to ratepayers during 2014 of $6,947,269.  The Commission translated this into "an average rate impact of about 0.06 cents per kWh (or about 30 to 35 cents monthly for a typical residential bill). In percentage terms, this translates to a residential customer bill impact of about one half of 1%."

The report also describes the cost of Class II RECs used to satisfy the eligible resource portfolio requirement as ranging from $0.00 per MWh (some RECs were provided for free as part of an energy transaction) to $1.80 per MWh, with an average cost of $0.52 per MWh and a total cost of $1,834,314. According to the Commission, this translates into less than ten cents per month on a typical residential bill.

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