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Maine Passes Net Energy Metering Reform Bill

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Sea level rise means this Portland, Maine, lighthouse is too close to the water.Solar energy is in the spotlight once again, as legislators in Maine have overridden a veto on a bill that addresses how net energy metering users, or those who sell solar energy to power companies, should be compensated.

The bill passed 119 to 28 in the house, where the majority of legislators are Democrats, and 32 to 3 in the senate, where the majority of legislators are Republicans. This bi-partisan effort is an important step forward to solving the current energy crisis.

The bill was originally vetoed by Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage, a Republian who has also actively worked to remove any previous alternative energy legislation from Maine.

The bill would like to address the potential problems of net energy metering, in which solar energy users can be paid, by the kilowatt-hour, for directing collected energy back into the grid. Legislators feared there would be conflict between solar power users and Central Maine Power, since the power company was reaching its peak load net-metering cap (meaning they were reaching the total amount of solar energy they could accept).

Instead of directly proposing new net metering terms, the bill dictates that the Maine Public Utility Commission organize a shareholder meeting to develop an alternative to net metering, inspired by a white paper published by Maine resident Lon Huber of Strategen Consulting and the Maine Office of the Public Advocate. Huber would like to establish a “Solar Central Buyer” who would then be in charge of setting rates, collecting and distributing solar energy.

The goal for solar advocates and power companies alike, according to the Huber’s paper, should be a fair net energy metering policy. It is important that those selling energy to the power companies are compensated fairly, but it is also important that the rates reflect the lowering cost of solar energy installation.

Is this a good strategy? How do you feel about a “Solar Central Buyer”?

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