Maine Solar Policy: Gross Metering More Costly Than Initially Anticipated
Today, Insource Renewables filed a motion with the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) related to the costs of the state’s new gross metering provisions. The provisions were announced on March 1, 2017 and went into effect on March 17, 2018.
For over six months, Maine’s solar installation companies have been installing additional meters as required by CMP, Emera Maine, and the PUC. These meters are necessary to measure the total energy generated by a new grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) system so that the utility can reduce the benefits received by the solar owner for every kilowatt-hour the system generates. Additional metering wasn’t required under net metering since credits were based only on the electricity the system delivered to the grid and could be measured with a single meter that served the home or business.
In order to implement gross metering:
- The solar installation company installs additional wiring, disconnects, and meter enclosures.
- The utility – CMP or Emera – inspects the work to make sure it meets their requirements and installs the second meter at the site to measure the total output of the system.
- The solar company bills CMP or Emera for the additional work it took to accommodate the meter; and
- CMP or Emera cuts a check to pay for it. These costs are ultimately paid by other ratepayers.
The concept behind the program is to invest ratepayer funds in these additional meters and to recoup benefits that otherwise would be received by the solar customer under net metering. Gross meters installed this year recoup 10% of the delivery benefits of net metering, gross meters installed in 2019 recoup 20% of the delivery benefits, and so on until systems installed in 2028 receive no delivery benefits.
It was initially estimated that it would cost $500 per meter to implement this new program. As more details have emerged regarding the scope of work necessary to install these meters, it has become clear that the costs are far higher than initially anticipated. In our filing, we illustrate that the installation costs of these meters are three to four times higher than initial estimates for a sample of ten meters installed under this program.
We also ran a detailed evaluation of the revenue that is expected to be recovered by these meters. These numbers are expected to be 30% lower than would be assumed under the standard methods required by the PUC for assessing revenues associated with net metering.
In total, a program that was anticipated to have immediate returns for ratepayers is expected to operate in the red for at least three years. Given the extreme position taken on solar policy by the previous administration, we expect significant changes to Maine’s solar policy in the coming years. Today’s request provides on-the-ground details relating to costs and encourages a closer look at how gross metering impacts Maine ratepayers.
Our goal with today’s request to the PUC is twofold:
- To avoid the poor investment of ratepayer funds in meters for commercial solar projects that cost ratepayers far more money than they will ever recoup; and
- To request a full accounting of the administrative and metering costs associated with gross metering to help Maine’s regulatory and legislative bodies properly assess the costs and benefits of the program.
We hope that the conversation surrounding this issue will be focused on how we best move forward.
We have provided a detailed timeline related to gross metering and the various regulatory and legislative discussions surrounding the rule that can be viewed here.