Maine community solar procurement bill, LD 1444

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

This week a committee of the Maine state legislature is scheduled to hold a public hearing on a bill that would direct state regulators to enter into long-term contracts to procure 120 megawatts of large-scale community solar distributed generation resources by 2022.  While Maine law currently allows some community-scale solar development, LD 1444, An Act Regarding Large-scale Community Solar Procurement, would create new structures geared toward state-sponsored long-term contracts and could open the door to broader ownership of or participation in community-scale solar in Maine.

If enacted into law as drafted, the bill would direct the Maine Public Utilities Commission to hold a series of four annual competitive solicitations by January 1, 2022.  Each solicitation would seek to procure 30 megawatts of large-scale community solar distributed generation resources.

Through an initial solicitation to be held by March 1, 2018, the Commission would set a uniform clearing price or "standard solar rate" for all awarded bids in the initial procurement.  Subsequent procurements would be subject to a declining block contract rate, under which the Commission would reduce the rate relative to the previous procurement by up to 3%.  But if the Commission were to conclude that a subsequent solicitation was not competitive, no bidders may be selected and the capacity available in that solicitation will be deferred to a subsequent solicitation.

Any resource selected for contracting would be offered a standard contract for a term of 20 years at the specified contract rate.  The resources' counterparty would be a "standard buyer" whose mission would be to "aggregate the output of the portfolio of distributed generation resources procured pursuant to this chapter and sell or use the output of these resources in a manner that maximizes the value of this portfolio of resources to all ratepayers."  Initially, the bill designates each investor-owned transmission and distribution utility as the standard buyer for its own service territory, but it would allow the Commission to designate another entity if doing so is in the best interest of ratepayers.  The benefits and costs of the procurement, shall be tracked and reviewed annually, and any gains would be allocated to from ratepayers of the project's host utility -- just as any losses would be recovered from those ratepayers.

On the project side, LD 1444 would establish a sponsor/subscriber model for large-scale community solar distributed generation resources.  A project sponsor would own or operate the resource.  A customer could subscribe for a proportional interest in such a resource, sized to represent at least one kilowatt of the resource's generating capacity.  Several additional requirements include:
  • The total expected annual value of all of a customer's subscriptions must not exceed 120% of the customer's most recent annual electricity bill. 
  • At least 50% of the subscriptions to a large-scale community solar distributed generation resource must be for 25 kilowatts or less, unless a municipality accounts for more than 50% of the subscriptions to a large-scale community solar distributed generation resource.
  • A municipality may not account for more than 70% of the subscriptions to a large-scale community solar distributed generation resource.
Once under contract, a project sponsor and subscribers receive the contract rate for the output of a large-scale community solar distributed generation resource that is fully subscribed. For any portion not subscribed, the project sponsor receives the wholesale rate.  Each subscriber will be allocated a bill credit based on its percentage interest of the facility's total production for the previous month.  These credits must be applied against the subscriber's monthly electricity bill.

LD 1444 is scheduled for a public hearing before the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology on April 27, 2017.

Maine PUC releases 2015 renewable report

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Maine energy regulators have released a report on the state's electricity renewable portfolio standard, presenting data from 2015.  The Maine Public Utilities Commission's Annual Report on New Renewable Resource Portfolio Requirement - Report for 2015 Activity [PDF] provides a look at Maine's renewables law, now in its tenth year on the books.  It may also inform legislative discussions later this spring about the future of Maine's renewable portfolio standard.

In 2007, the Maine legislature enacted a law requiring that specified percentages of electricity that supply Maine’s consumers come from “new” or Class 1 renewable resources, ranging from 1% in 2008 to 10% in 2017.  The law also required the Commission to report annually to the legislative energy committee on the status of this requirement and related compliance matters.

According to the report, Maine suppliers sourced approximately 891,757 renewable energy certificates or RECs, from 30 facilities, to comply with the 2015 requirement.  Of these, 20 facilities were fueled by biomass, 4 by hydropower, 3 by wind and 1 by landfill gas.  25 out of the 30 facilities were located in Maine, with 2 in New York, and one each in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont.  By REC volume, 99% came from facilities located in Maine.

The report also estimates the cost to Maine ratepayers of Maine's new renewable resource portfolio requirement.  According to the report, the cost of RECs used for compliance in 2015 ranged from "approximately $2.00 per MWh to $42.50 per MWh, with an average cost of $13.16 per MWh and a total cost of $11,738,174."  Adding in $3,018 in alternative compliance payments by one supplier, the report estimates a total cost to ratepayers during 2015 of $11,741,192.  The report translates this total cost into "an average rate impact of about one-tenth of a cent per kWh. This is equivalent to about 55 cents per month, or 1%, for a typical residential customer; $50 per month for a medium commercial customer that uses 50,000 kWh per month; and $500 per month for a large commercial/industrial customer that uses 500,000 kWh per month."

Maine law also includes a Class 2 renewable portfolio standard, requiring an additional 30% of electricity come from existing renewables and other Class 2 resources.  According to the Commission's report, the average cost of a Class 2 REC in 2015 was $0.28 per MWh, with a total cost of $965,818.  The report notes that this is "equivalent to about 5 cents per month for a typical residential customer, and $4 and $40 per month for medium and large commercial/industrial customers with the usage levels described above, respectively."

This session, the 128th Maine Legislature is considering several bills that could affect Maine's renewable energy laws, including LD 532, An Act To Remove the 100-megawatt Limit on Hydroelectric Generators under the Renewable Resources Laws, as well as LD 1185, a concept draft which "proposes to enact measures designed to update Maine's renewable portfolio standards."

Brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev sets global renewable electricity goal by 2025

Thursday, April 6, 2017

World’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA – parent to brands including Budweiser, Corona, Rolling Rock, Michelob, and Stella Artois – has committed to sourcing its electricity entirely from renewable sources by 2025.  The move would make AB InBev the largest corporate direct purchaser of renewable electricity in the global consumer goods sector.

AB InBev makes 30% of the world’s beer, operating breweries in 50 countries. Collectively, these facilities consume 6 terawatt-hours of electricity a year, of which 7% is currently renewable-sourced.  According to a March 28 press release, changing to 100% renewable electricity will reduce the company's carbon footprint by 30%, an estimated reduction of about 2 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.

While many multinational companies “invest” in renewables by buying renewable energy credits or certificates known as "RECs", AB InBev’s plan involves no REC-buying. The company reportedly intends to obtain 75 to 85 percent of its electricity through direct power purchases under a power purchase agreement or similar commercial arrangement, with remaining 15 to 25 percent coming from on-site distributed generation installations at its facilities, like solar panels. The company has committed to producing the energy in the country in which it is to be consumed.

Sourcing renewable energy is relatively easier in some countries, like Mexico. AB InBev announced that its largest facility, a Grupo Modelo brewery, had signed contracts to get all its electricity from wind power, including 220 MW to be built by Iberdrola SA in Puebla. Those new wind projects alone, destined to supply the brewery, represent a 5% increase to Mexico's renewable energy capacity. But in other countries, most notably in Africa, a lack of markets and infrastructure to connect industrial consumers with renewable energy may prove challenging. Also worth noting is that the company's commitment relates to electricity, and not directly to fuels or heat required for beer production and distribution. 

Nevertheless, Anheuser-Busch InBev's commitment to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2025 across its global portfolio of facilities represents another data point in the trend of corporate direct investment in renewable energy.  Corporations including Apple, Google, and Amazon have made a variety of commitments relating to renewable electricity, citing benefits ranging from environmental sustainability to locking in power pricing.