Recently signed into law, how does the new Net Energy Billing, and associated legislation that went into effect last year, impact Maine-based businesses and residents?
LD 1711 was passed in June of 2019. It changed our community energy laws, so that instead of limiting the number of subscribers to a given “shared” power generation resource to 10 accounts (or the host meter plus 9 others), now there is NO limit to the number of electricity accounts that can subscribe to take off the power. This has thrown open the gates wide, to welcome a veritable flood of clean energy development, primarily community solar, into Maine.
What has been the impact of Maine’s 2019 legislative session on the solar industry?
I like to characterize it as putting a lot of green lights in front of solar power developers, where they used to run into red lights.
Can you provide an overview of net metering and its role in energy markets? What is community solar?
Net metering is also called net energy billing. I am quoting a definition directly off the MPUC web page here:
● NEB programs allow customers to offset their electricity bills using the output from small renewable generators.
● Customers may own their own project or share in a project with other customers.
● The generation facility may be located on the customer’s property or on another property within the same utility service territory.
There are 2 primary types of community solar programs, as alluded to in the second bullet. In the ownership model, investors work with the developers to buy in to a share of the solar farm, either through up front investment or a payment plan.
In the subscription model (which is what PowerMarket offers), people sign up to subscribe to a portion of the power produced by a solar farm each month and it gives them credits on their monthly electricity bills. The credits are smaller when days are shorter and solar production is lowest and they are larger when we have longer days and high power production. PowerMarket charges its subscribers 90% of their solar credits, resulting in a 10% savings.
What is the premise of PowerMarket Maine – and how does it aim to serve communities and businesses?
PowerMarket is an independent company unrelated to Versant Power, which now owns Emera. As far as serving the communities goes, we make a big effort to give back to Maine communities that help us to build the subscribers we need to use all of the power from Maine solar farms. To do this, we offer “referral partnerships” to community organizations that help to spread the word about this opportunity to their community members and make donations to the organizations as a “thank you” for their help. We also look to partner with businesses that help us to get the word out to their customers by offering gift certificates for use at those businesses to their customers who choose to subscribe.
What challenges do solar energy markets currently face? What is the future of electricity markets for Mainers?
The solar energy marketplace faces the enviable challenge of growing pains. After years of being bootstrapped by restrictive solar policy, we now face a workforce development challenge as the rush to build many community solar farms plays out. If you know of any folks looking for a bright new career, steer them toward Maine’s solar industry!
How can Maine homes and businesses save money on their electricity bills?
● The first and best way is through greater energy efficiency: reducing the amount of power needed to do what we do. Efficiency Maine can help.
● I encourage everyone to check the Maine Office of the Public Advocate’s electricity supply comparison page, to make sure they have the lowest kWh price for their electricity. Caveat Emptor: rates change frequently and we need to be aware of when our contract periods are ending.
● Subscribing to community solar farms can save people anywhere from 10-15% on electricity costs; you can read up on the net energy billing models on the MPUC website.● Of course, I am partial to PowerMarket’s community solar subscription program.
Last modified: June 18, 2021