Maine Stands Up for Solar

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Solar advocates herald a win for solar in Maine as a surcharge for solar customers is dropped from a utility proposal. The Maine Public Utilities Commission is expected to deliberate on the proposal later this month.

 

Maine is not always top of mind when we think about solar, but it’s not to be discounted. It gets more sun than you might think and is home to a blossoming solar industry. The state has been in the news lately because solar there has been under threat. But this week brought some alleviation to the situation in Maine, with what solar advocates are calling a victory for solar.

Like many other states, Maine has been facing a potential surcharge for solar customers. Central Maine Power Co. (CMP) was using the same argument we’ve heard in other states — that although solar customers pay less to the utility when they generate their own power, they still rely on the grid and should pay extra for that, so that others don’t have to foot the bill.

Studies keep showing that distributed solar generation benefits all utility customers, and a recent one conducted in Nevada concluded that there is no significant cost shift there from solar to non-solar customers.

But utilities persist in the attempt to impose extra charges on solar customers.

The effort in Maine drew widespread opposition, with renewable energy advocates showing up to protest it at public hearings. A poll conducted in the state found that eight out of ten Mainers opposed the charge.

In the end, the surcharge was dropped from the proposal that CMP submitted to the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Instead, the state is pursuing broad rate reform. And all the major parties to the case signed on to the revised proposal.

The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) heralded the proposal as another victory for rooftop solar. Bryan Miller, President of TASC and Vice President of Public Policy for Sunrun, said, “This victory in Maine is another testament to the overwhelming public support for rooftop solar across the country. Maine wants to pursue broad rate reform and support the continued growth of rooftop solar.”

CMP filed its proposal with the PUC on Thursday, and the PUC is expected to deliberate on it July 29. Solar advocates are hopeful that the PUC will approve the proposal and consider it a good sign that so many stakeholders in the case were able to reach a consensus.