Legislative Republicans in Maine offered an amendment this week to LD 1347 in the hope of finding a palatable compromise that will rein in electricity rate increases caused by community solar and Net Energy Billing (NEB).
The amendment, unveiled during a press briefing Tuesday, comes as ratepayers brace for a projected $220 million electricity cost increase in 2025 — a cost increase attributed entirely to changes the Legislature made in 2019 to boost solar.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Steven Foster (R-Dexter) and co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart (R-Aroostook) intends to limit future rate increases.
“There is still time to change course,” said Stewart, “There is still time to do something about this impending rate increase that’s coming as a result of bad policy that the Democrats have passed since they reclaimed their majorities.”
The proposal originally aimed to eliminate NEB altogether, but after that bill foundered on Democratic majorities, Foster consulted with the Office of Public Advocate to develop a compromise bill.
Maine Public Advocate William Harwood has become increasingly vocal this year about the impacts of NEB on ratepayers.
Harwood testified before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee in April, warning that without modifications, the NEB program could cost the average ratepayer an extra $275 per year starting in July.
The proposed amendment includes several key changes: limit the number of Community Solar subscribers to 10 starting September 2023, reduce qualifying project capacity from 5 megawatts to 660 kilowatts, allow the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to periodically review and adjust the subscriber compensation, and require distributed generation resources to be on the same side of the meter.
Additionally, it directs the PUC to adopt rules and develop policies governing the development of solar energy projects under 5 megawatts, conduct a competitive solicitation for distributed generation contracts, and prohibit selected distributed generation resources from continuing to participate in NEB.
“We’re hoping that we can garner enough support from representatives on the other side of the aisle that have been hearing from their constituents – this is not a Democrat or Republican issue when it comes to paying our light bills,” Foster said.
“I know that all legislators have been hearing more and more about the cost of electricity,” he said.
A Maine Wire investigation has found that 88 percent of the firms registered as community solar sponsors or marketers are based outside of Maine.