Insource Renewables Response to Maine PUC Decision to Further Limit Gross Metering
Maine PUC exempts larger solar customers from gross metering rules and requires more detailed reporting from Maine's investor-owned utilities
In response to a request by Insource Renewables, the Maine Public Utilities Commission today ordered that larger electrical customers electing to install solar energy for their business be exempted from recent regulatory changes known as gross metering.
These regulatory changes require that Maine ratepayers invest in additional meters to measure the total amount of energy generated by newly built solar energy systems. The purpose of this investment of ratepayer funds was to reclaim revenue for ratepayers that would have otherwise been received by the owner of the solar energy system. The Maine PUC agreed with our assessment that these provisions for certain business customers are costly for ratepayers and offer little to no return on investment. A summary of gross metering and our submission to the PUC can be found here.
The Commission also approved our request to require detailed reporting by CMP and Emera Maine on the costs to implement the entirety of this program. We hope that the final order will require the utilities to include all of the costs that we outlined in our request, including the cost of upgrades to the three billing systems of the state's investor owned utilities, labor and administrative costs associated with the additional training and procedures required within the utilities to implement the new rules, and the costs associated with the hand billing of new solar customers. All of these costs are borne by ratepayers, and it is imperative that we know all of the costs to assess the effectiveness of the program.
Ultimately, today's decision is an important step in protecting the interests of Maine ratepayers. Insource Renewables is appreciative of the Commission's willingness to evaluate the actual costs that we reported and to recognize that gross metering is clearly not effective regulatory policy for certain classes of Maine solar customers. This is the second time that the Commission has been willing to recognize that the application of gross metering cannot be effectively implemented for all solar customers that connect to the grid (the first occasion being with systems that are connected to the utility grid and utilize battery storage). We are thankful that the Commission has been flexible in its evaluation in these cases and has worked to clarify the implementation of this rule.
We are also encouraged by the Commission's recognition that the actual costs under this program are significantly higher than estimates provided to them by CMP in earlier proceedings. Responsible and informed decisionmaking requires accurate data, and CMP clearly did not perform their due diligence in assessing the costs associated with this program. As the state continues to modernize its regulatory policy to reflect technological changes in electrical generation and consumption, it is imperative that CMP work collaboratively – and in good faith – with other stakeholders in Maine to further avoid saddling ratepayers with unnecessary costs.
Lawmakers will revisit gross metering in the new legislative session, and we hope our efforts with the Commission will help better inform their decision-making process. In the last two sessions, Maine lawmakers have grappled with the appropriateness of Maine's new gross metering rules. The opposition in this conversation has been driven by ideology and poor information. Today's ruling indicates that those efforts have significantly impacted the Commission's ability to quantitatively assess the impact of these rules.
In 2017, Commission Staff reported to the Energy, Utilities, and Technology Committee that the gross metering provisions would immediately lead to savings for ratepayers. In today's deliberations, Commissioner Vannoy indicated that those savings likely aren't realized until the third or fourth year of the program. This is a significant policy difference given the volatility that we have seen in Augusta on this issue.
Governor-elect Janet Mills has stated that the elimination of gross metering is a priority in her energy policy, and we look forward to informed debate and continued bipartisanship on this issue.