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DISCLAIMER: This blog is published for general information only - it is not intended to constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by any person as legal advice. While we welcome you to contact our authors, the submission of a comment or question does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and you.

Tuesday
Mar152016

Maine Solar Bill Proposes to Expand Capacity Without Net Metering

On March 10, the Maine Legislature’s Energy, Utilities & Technology Committee reported out a bill that is the culmination of the solar stakeholder process at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The bill sets a target of developing 248 MW of new solar capacity over a five-year period beginning in 2017. The bill defines four categories of solar power development in Maine: grid-scale, large-scale community, commercial and industrial, and residential and small business.

As previously explained here, the most controversial aspect of the new legislation is that it would end net metering (AKA “net energy billing”) for rooftop solar. During the solar stakeholder process at the PUC, a compromise consensus emerged among the utilities, the solar industry, environmental groups, and the Office of the Public Advocate, which represents ratepayers in Maine.

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Wednesday
Jan272016

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Affirms MPUC’s Finding that Smart Meters Pose No Credible Health or Safety Threat

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s decision that Central Maine Power Company’s advanced metering infrastructure (“AMI”) system (aka “smart meters”) pose no credible threat to the health and safety of Central Maine Power Company (“CMP”) customers. Friedman v. PUC, 2016 ME 19, — A.3d —. In a lengthy legal battle spanning more than five years, Ed Friedman and other CMP customers, challenged the use of smart meters on health and safety grounds.

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Wednesday
Jan272016

“The Rate Is What It Is”: Supreme Court Upholds FERC’s Demand Response Rule 

At oral argument in FERC v. Electric Power Supply Association, the Government argued that the retail rate or price of electricity “is what it is”—exactly the amount charged to the customer, without considering any foregone benefits. On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed with that characterization and upheld FERC’s Demand Response rule, rejecting arguments that the rule exceeded FERC’s authority by regulating retail electric rates that are exclusively the domain of state regulators. But before we get to the merits, some background is in order.

What is Demand Response?

Demand Response (DR) refers to the practice of incenting electricity consumers to reduce their demand for power during times of peak power usage. During these peak times, electricity becomes very expensive to generate as older and more inefficient generators are required to run to meet the high demand.

Grid operators throughout the country are tasked with precisely balancing electricity demand and supply at all times. Historically, these grid operators focused on the supply side of the equation—overseeing markets to ensure there is an adequate supply of generation to meet forecasted demand. Over the last 10-15 years, however, FERC and regional grid operators have learned that by lowering demand, they can reduce wholesale power costs and improve grid reliability.

 

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Friday
Jan082016

MPUC Approves Northern Utilities’ Targeted Area Build-Out Program

Northern Utilities (d/b/a Unitil) recently received Maine Public Utilities Commission approval for a pilot Targeted Area Build-Out (TAB) program in Saco, Maine. The purpose of Unitil’s TAB program is to remove the barrier of large contribution in aid of construction (CIAC) payments that new gas customers face when converting to natural gas and allow Unitil to build out its gas distribution network incrementally in targeted areas to serve new customers that are located off the main gas line.

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Wednesday
Dec302015

Beyond Net Metering: Solar Stakeholders Seek Common Ground

Since September, solar stakeholders have been participating in regular work sessions at the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to develop an alternative to Maine’s current net metering rules. Net metering or “net energy billing” allows utility customers who also generate some of their own power (with solar panels, for example) to pay only for the difference between the energy they generate and the energy they consume. This straightforward concept exists in some form in more than 40 states. But as rooftop solar continues to expand, utilities are beginning to seek alternatives to net metering rules around the country.

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Friday
Dec112015

Large-Scale Solar Having Its Moment in the Sun

Last week the Portland Press Herald reported that the Maine Public Utilities Commission will direct Maine’s transmission and distribution utilities to enter into a long-term contract with Dirigo Solar for the construction of up to 75 MW of new solar installations across the state.

The Commission was especially pleased with the price offered by Dirigo. According to a term sheet filed with the Commission last month, the price will be $35/MWh for all of the energy and capacity benefits generated by the solar projects. The price will increase by 2.5% annually over a total term of 20 years. These terms compare very favorably with other long-term renewable contracts approved by the Commission.

Earlier this year, for example, the Commission approved a 25-year contract for the Highland Wind project at a price of $43.80/MWh with the same annual 2.5% increase. Although the Highland Wind contract included other provisions that make an apples-to-apples comparison difficult, $35/MWh is nevertheless an impressive price for solar.

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Thursday
Dec102015

Divide in an Effort to Conquer: Petitioners ask Court to Bifurcate Challenge to Clean Power Plan 

Some lawyers say there is no harm in piling on when adding causes of action to a law suit. Assuming the claims are defensible, this may be true. Opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (“EPA” or “Agency”) Clean Power Plan (“Rule”), however, seem to believe that their suit chock-full of legal challenges may be hindering their efforts to receive an expeditious ruling.

Yesterday, the group of 27 states, utilities, trade groups and unions, filed a motion with the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit requesting that the Court “bifurcate the briefing between the fundamental legal issues and individual record-based challenges.”

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