By William Opalka
Maine regulators last week proposed a 15-year phase-out of net metering for current rooftop solar systems and a 10-year limit for new systems.
The proposal came as a part of a rulemaking process that the Maine Public Utilities Commission hopes to complete by the end of the year and implement in 2017.
“In light of changes in the technology and costs of small renewable generation, particularly solar PV, we felt that opening a rulemaking process to consider changes to the rule was the prudent course of action to ensure that all ratepayers are treated fairly,” Chairman Mark Vannoy said in a statement.
The rulemaking also proposes gradually reducing compensation for new solar customers, increasing the size of an eligible customer facility by more than 50%, from 660 kW to 1 MW, and additional consumer protections.
House of Representatives Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon, a solar proponent who helped craft a compromise solar power bill that was vetoed by Gov. Paul LePage in April, blasted the PUC proposal.
“Maine needs a comprehensive solar policy. Unfortunately, the PUC’s narrow focus on a single part of the broader solar policy doesn’t help our state’s ability to open new markets that create jobs and lower costs for homeowners, businesses and communities,” Gideon said. “This past session’s solar bill did not simply look at net metering in isolation but was crafted to help our constituents who are clamoring for access to community, commercial and municipal solar. That responsiveness and broad view is why policymaking should be left to lawmakers.”
The net metering review was automatically triggered by a PUC rule after solar exceeded 1% of Central Maine Power’s installed capacity. The utility reported solar at 1.04% at the end of 2015.