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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.

Entries in Renewables (80)

Tuesday
Aug012017

“Untethered” Clean Energy Subsidies Survive Post-Hughes Preemption Challenges

Last year in Hughes v. Talen, the Supreme Court struck down a Maryland generator subsidy program, concluding that it had a direct impact on the wholesale energy auctions and was therefore preempted by the Federal Power Act (FPA). Broadly speaking, under the FPA, wholesale energy sales are federally regulated, by FERC and regional grid operators, and retail sales are state regulated. As described by the court, the fatal flaw inherent in Maryland’s program was that it was directly linked to the generator’s participation in the regional wholesale energy (or capacity) auction—it required generators to bid into the wholesale market but guaranteed them a price distinct from the market clearing price, thereby distorting the wholesale market. Critically, however, the court expressly limited its holding, stating: “Nothing in this opinion should be read to foreclose Maryland and other States from encouraging production of new or clean generation through measures untethered to a generator’s wholesale market participation.” (emphasis added)

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Monday
Nov072016

Maine PUC Proposes Net Metering Rule Changes

The PUC has issued a proposed rule that would change Maine’s net metering compensation for rooftop solar (and other distributed generation). Under Maine’s current rule, customers that generate power are given a credit equal to the full retail rate of electricity.

The proposed rule would gradually reduce the portion of a generating customer’s electric bill that the customer is able to “net” against, and, over time, require the customer to pay a higher portion of their bill, regardless of how much energy the customer generates and delivers to the grid.

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Tuesday
Oct042016

Natural Gas: Where Do We Go From Here?

With cold weather approaching, natural gas production expected to rise and expansion projects underway, Verrill Dana and Pierce Atwood will host their fourth annual, Natural Gas: Where do we go from here? on Thursday, October 6 at The Woodlands in Falmouth, Maine. 

The all-day event, co-chaired by Verrill Dana attorney William Harwood, will feature keynote speaker, Patrick Woodcock, Director of the Governor’s Energy Office and lunchtime speaker, Former Maine Public Utilities Chair, Tom Welch. Panel discussions will cover:

  • “Gas vs. Renewables – Allies or competitors?” - Featuring Verrill Dana attorney Jim Cohen
  • “Safety – Are we doing enough?” - Featuring Verrill Dana attorney Katie Gray
  • “Pipeline Expansion – Do we still need it?” 

 Find more details on the event and the full agenda on Verrill Dana’s website.

Tuesday
Jul262016

Not Just for Rooftops: A Look at Community Solar in Maine

Much of the discussion around solar policy focuses on rooftop solar. While rooftop solar is an option for certain homeowners with suitable rooftops and some extra cash in the bank (or the ability to obtain financing), rooftop solar is not available to a large segment of the population. Community solar offers the possibility of making solar panels accessible to a much larger group of interested investors. Because transaction costs and other “soft costs” make up a large portion of solar energy projects, community solar benefits from greater efficiencies and could reduce the payback period compared to smaller, single-owner projects.

Although Maine’s community solar capacity has been slow to take off, since 2014 community solar farms have begun to crop up around the state. Several large projects are currently in the works, including a large project in China, Maine scheduled for completion this fall.

Below is an overview of how community solar works in Maine.

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Friday
Jun242016

Seeking Competition Among the Uncompetitive: Maine PUC Must Define “Competitive” in Biomass Subsidy Proceeding

What makes a competitive bidding process “competitive”? The Maine PUC is currently grappling with this question in Docket No. 2016-00084 in which it is tasked with awarding contracts for up to 80MW of biomass generation. Under a new law, P.L. 2015, ch. 483, the PUC must solicit bids from eligible biomass resources. Lawmakers passed the bill to support Maine’s forest products industry, which has suffered as a result of a string of mill closures in recent years. Under the law, the PUC may enter into “above-market” contracts with biomass generators and pay for the above-market costs from special revenue funds to shield ratepayers from higher energy costs that would result from the contracts. The law is designed to help loggers and other forest service employees that rely on biomass generators, which are struggling to compete against low oil and gas prices.

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Thursday
Jun162016

Maine PUC Opens New Proceeding to Explore Changes to Net Metering Rules

On Tuesday, the PUC opened a new docket (2016-00120) requesting comments from interested stakeholders about the future of net metering (also known as “net energy billing”). In January, CMP notified the Commission that in 2015 net metering resources had exceeded 1% of CMP’s peak demand, triggering PUC review under the rules. The PUC took no action on CMP’s petition while the Legislature debated LD 1649, a bill that would have replaced net metering with the “Standard Solar Buyer” model that emerged from the solar stakeholder process last fall. That bill failed to overcome Governor LePage’s veto at the end of the session. Now the PUC will decide whether to act on its own to make changes to Maine’s net metering rules.

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Thursday
May052016

After Solar Bill Fails to Muster Veto-Proof Support, PUC Will Decide Fate of Net Metering 

Last Friday, the Maine House came within two votes of overriding Governor LePage’s veto of LD 1649, a bill that would have substantially increased installed solar capacity in Maine. The Senate had previously voted unanimously to override the veto. The bill would have sought to increase solar capacity nearly tenfold in Maine, from 20 MW to 196 MW in 2021. The bill would have phased out net metering in favor of a system of long-term contracts for rooftop solar and provided similar long-term contracts for community and large-scale solar installations.

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