Last month, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) proposed changes to Maine’s net metering rule that threaten to stall the state’s progress in increasing its supply of clean, home-grown energy.
In proposing the change, the PUC ignored their own study showing that the value of solar energy exceeds associated costs. What’s more, it disregarded the comments of thousands of businesses and people expressing their concerns about the change. Mainers told the PUC they didn’t want to lose solar jobs, they didn’t want to undermine their and their neighbors’ investments in solar panels, and they wanted energy independence in the form of clean renewables. We’ll offer more insights into the substance of the rule change over the next couple of weeks, but, for now, it’s important to know why the proposed rule change shouldn’t move forward at all.
First, policy-making of this scale belongs in the hands of Maine’s elected legislators. The next legislative session is mere weeks away, and we know that Maine legislators are planning to tackle solar policy themselves. The PUC should not get in the way of that.
Second, the PUC didn’t follow the laws to ensure that rulemaking is a transparent process and that Maine people have a say in the development of rules. One of those laws requires that the PUC carefully consider how a rule change would affect small businesses, to analyze the economic impacts of the proposed rule, and to make that analysis public.
The PUC simply didn’t do that, and their meager explanation that the rule would have only minimal financial impacts – which the hundreds of businesses that will be substantially impacted have said is not the case – just doesn’t cut it.
And finally, even if the PUC had properly gotten to this point, it simply doesn’t have the authority to make some of the changes that it is proposing. One change buried in the PUC’s proposed rules so fundamentally alters the net energy billing system that it is inconsistent with the law those rules are meant to implement. Net energy billing is a simple system whereby solar customers pay for any electricity from the grid that they use – while also being credited for any electricity their solar panels produce and feed back into the grid. Under the proposed new rules, solar-panel owners would now pay the electric company transmission and distribution costs for solar power that is generated and consumed on site.
You read that right: Mainers with solar panels would be charged transmission and delivery costs for using their own solar power that never leaves their home or business. The Commission simply doesn’t have the power to implement such a plan – it’s unlawful.
What Can You Do About It?
It’s time to show the PUC, again, that Mainers support solar – we like local jobs; we like to be in control of choices about our energy use; and yes, we care about Maine’s environmental future.
What: Solar Rally and Public Hearing
When: Monday, October 17 rally at noon, public hearing at 1:00 p.m.
Where: Maine Public Utilities Commission, 101 Second Street, Hallowell, ME
You can also submit comments to the Commission before 4:00p.m., Wednesday, November 2, 2016.