The information below is excerpted from ReVision Energy‘s April 2016 newsletter:
Maine’s NeXt Metering Hangs in the Balance
Maine has made national headlines for its innovative proposed solar policy, which brought together interests as diverse as utility companies, ratepayer advocates, labor unions, environmental groups, municipal representatives, and solar installers to develop an evolution of net metering.
Unfortunately, the widespread consensus shattered when the bill arrived in Maine’s legislature. Rep. Nathan Wadsworth (R-Hiram), who previously supported the bill, abruptly turned around and advocated a stance to maintain the status quo.
The Governor’s office has made their intentions clear, by advocating a position which would cap rates for solar well below their market value and reduce the term of solar contracts to ten years, effectively making solar impossible to build in Maine. . .
What is LD1649 all about?
Some of the key provisions of the bill:
- Establishes goal of 250MW installed solar by 2022 (12.5x what Maine has now)
- Expands solar market in Maine to reach to include utility-scale projects, commercial/industrial projects, and large scale community solar
- Completely lifts cap on community solar
- Saves rate payers over $100,000,000 over the program life! All solar projects under the new plan would get a fixed-rate 20-yr contract price for exported solar power
- All solar projects under the new plan would get a fixed-rate 20-yr contract price for exported solar power
- Gathers ‘money left on the table’ by current net metering by allowing small solar producers to aggregate and sell into solar markets (this is essentially how the ‘value of solar’ is recovered and pass on as savings to all ratepayers)
- Grandfathers in existing net metering customers (and new customers until program implementation)
Some answers to questions we’re getting:
Should I go solar now or wait?
People who go solar now can get the best of both worlds – the full benefits of retail net metering now, and the choice of whether to switch over to the new policy or stay with net metering once the new policy is introduced. As we’ve warned, should LD1649 fail, a full attack on net metering may be next, and the best safeguard to this is probably to already be enrolled in the program.
LD1649 specifically does not want to create a gap in the market where homeowners postpone an investment until after the program is in place. Should LD1649 going into effect, any existing net-metered systems can stick with net metering through 2029, or choose to enroll in the new program at the best possible rate.
Does this do away with net metering?
This program seeks to replace net metering with a program that resolves the conflict over net metering in the long-term and will get more solar built in the near-term. If the program fails to get as much solar built as it is intended to do, it has a mechanism by which rates will be re-adjusted, or, barring a fix, will restore net metering completely.
Importantly, anyone who has net metering can stay with it; all parties agree with the need to grandfather in existing solar customers.
Is this policy a subsidy?
No. Numerous studies, most importantly, Maine’s Value of Solar study, suggest that current retail net metering actually UNDER compensates solar generators for their electricity. However, in the spirit of compromise (and current policy reality) we recognize that an evolution to net metering can improve Maine’s solar market in a number of ways.
At least as the bill is written now, this program would replace net metering (and not run both programs in parallel). Again, if the new program fails to perform, net metering exactly as it exists today will return to Maine.
LD1649 makes the solar pricing process more transparent and recovers some market value currently underutilized by net metering, which is how it is modeled to save $55MM+ to Maine ratepayers (based on modeling from Maine’s Public Advocate).
Do you support the bill?
Yes. We particularly appreciate what the bill represents – leadership from a wide coalition of Mainers, from the utilities to labor unions, in solving a challenging policy question. All parties unite around a central concept: “How do we get more solar installed in Maine?” and then worked through different points of view, finding common ground that enabled the group to rough out the terms that ultimately have become the proposal before the legislature today.
We are extremely frustrated that a small group of players, oddly enough, Governor LePage and out of state solar companies, have allied to do everything possible to stop it.
What happens next?
Legislators have yet to vote on the bill, and in the meantime we and all solar advocates are pressing hard to get phone calls and emails into them. Our impression from the legislature is that they see few electoral repercussions if they don’t stand for solar – an impression we need to change. Legislators need to hear from you that you expect them to step away from knee jerk partisanship and to instead work collaboratively to tackle the issues and seize the opportunities in front of them.
Please consider filling out this extremely brief online survey if you haven’t already:
Dear Residents of York,
We are Sydney Fogg and Mary Kocev, eighth grade members of the greenhouse group at York
Middle School. Since fall of 2014, our school has been composting. Grades 5-8 sort their lunch
waste each day. Every Monday, Mr. Fox’s Composting comes and picks up our compost. This
service is not free; we have to pay a fee. With your help, this service could be free.
If we can get 50 households in York to sign-up with Mr. Fox’s, our composting service would be
free! The cost for you to sign up is $16 a month for bi weekly pickup of any food scraps. In
return, you will receive a bag of composted soil. You will also help reduce trash on the planet.
According mrfoxcomposting.com, “Organic materials, including food scraps and paper products,
make up more than two-thirds of the nation’s solid waste stream. Instead of trash, composting
turns all that into rich soil to nourish the Earth.” Since York Middle School started successfully
composting, we have reduced our trash pickup from five to three times a week.
Other York businesses who use Mr. Fox’s Composting include: The York Harbor Inn, Stonewall
Kitchen, Foster’s Clambake, York Hospital, and St. Joe’s. If you are interested, please, take the
survey at the bottom of the page. We urge you to be part of the solution- begin composting at
your home and support York Middle School, too! Thank you for your help.
Compost Interest Survey: http://goo.gl/forms/9KFSDzZTxj
If you have trouble with the survey link, please email Jess Baxter at Jbaxter@yorkschools.org.
Sydney Fogg and Mary Kocev
You can follow the almost real-time electric generation of the solar array on the York Beach Fire Station at http://revisionenergy.solarlog-web.net/york/.
The solar system has been generating electricity for the Fire Department and the Town of York since September of 2015.
Below is an editorial from the Kennebec Journal. It is presented in its entirety because it clearly summarizes a relatively complicated but important piece of legislation.
Lawmakers shouldn’t let politics get in the way of this good bill.
Maine lawmakers have a great opportunity to fairly distribute the costs and benefits of solar power, setting a five-year course that would expand use of renewable energy in a sustainable way.
That is, if they don’t let politics get in the way.
On the table is a compromise bill put together by a stakeholder group, which included power utilities, environmental groups and representatives of a nascent solar energy installation industry.
What they propose is a 12-fold increase in solar power generation over the next five years, with 250 megawatts of new generation roughly split between small rooftop solar installations on homes and small businesses and larger community, industrial and grid-scale projects. Owners of solar installations would sell all the excess power that they produce on sunny days through a long-term contract, which would be credited against the power that they use at night and on cloudy days, lowering their electric bills.
But like most important pieces of legislation passed over the last five years, it will require two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, which would have to stick together in the face of a likely veto by Gov. Paul LePage. Although his energy office participated in the stakeholder group, he has already signaled his opposition.
But lawmakers should not follow his lead. The compromise plan would put more clean energy on the grid during peak demand months, keeping the power supply reliable. And it would also create jobs and keep money spent on energy in local economies instead of shipping it out of state. This is an opportunity to set Maine on a positive course, and lawmakers should not let it pass them by.
Most opposition to solar power comes from climate-change skeptics, who question the need for any renewable power sources. But the evidence in Maine is mounting that our use of carbon-based energy is shortening our winters, changing the chemical composition of our offshore waters and threatening key industries from forestry to skiing.
There are, however, some legitimate concerns about the way that the cost of operating the electric grid is shared between solar and non-solar electric customers. LePage has rightly pointed out that what has been the high cost of installing solar panels made them unavailable to lower-income utility customers and shifted the responsibility for maintaining the grid onto them from wealthier customers who could afford to make the investment.
That critique, however, does not take into account the rapid decline in the price of solar equipment, which is putting it within reach for a greater number of consumers. And it doesn’t factor in what has been a very small amount of power produced by home-based solar to date – much less than 1 percent of the power on the grid – making the shifted costs more of a theoretical complaint than a real problem.
The proposed plan would fairly share costs even as solar generation grows dramatically, by charging solar customers the full cost of buying electricity before applying credit for excess power sold.
And it would create opportunities for people who can’t currently afford to install solar panels, or live in apartments or developments where that would be impossible, to participate in community solar installations and earn energy credits that lower their bills. Large-scale installations could lower energy costs for manufacturing facilities or shopping malls, and grid-scale projects could put power generation where it’s needed to meet demand at the time of year that it’s needed most. This will benefit all customers who use the grid, whether they choose to invest in solar power or not.
Maine lawmakers should not let politics get in the way of this good idea, and they should seize this opportunity to expand solar power in a sustainable way.
The Energy Steering Committee was highlighted by the York Weekly as one of the town’s “Movers and Shakers” of 2015. From the article by Deborah McDermott:
YORK – During the recent climate talks in Paris, a group of state and provincial government leaders, mayors and municipal officials from throughout the world held a Climate Summit for Local Leaders. They argued that climate progress can be measured at the local level, where innovative programs often drive changes later adopted by federal governments.
This “think globally, act locally” attitude has infused the work of the York Energy Steering Committee in 2015, bringing the group to the forefront of several efforts aimed at reducing the town’s carbon footprint. And more is expected in 2016.
“People more broadly sense global warming is a problem of today, not tomorrow,” said chair Rozanna Patane. “We see it in the weather, we see it in our oceans. What the committee tries to talk about is putting the impact first, and the (monetary) savings, second. The bonus is while we’re saving the planet we can also save money.
“But that’s not why we’re doing this. It’s important for us here in York to do our part. This is a very big problem, but don’t say it’s so big that we can’t do our part,” she said.
The York Beach Fire Department dedicated a 28-kilowatt solar power system installed on the roof of the station Saturday. Photo by Ralph Morang/RalphMorang.com
Arguably the signature effort by the committee during the past year has been the solar panel installation on the roof of the York Beach Fire Department. In September, 2014, the committee secured a $98,000 grant to purchase and install the panels, which supply 28 kilowatt hours of electricity. As the New Year began, Fire Chief Dave Bridges said he watched the electric meters “whirling away. Can you imagine what it’s going to be like on a bright sunny day in July?”
As it turned out, the savings last summer turned out to be significant. The Central Maine Power bill last August showed a credit of $1.38. A year prior, Bridges said, he would have paid $325 to $350 for the same period. The committee also paid for heat pumps in the second floor to take the load off the oil boiler and generate heating and air conditioning there. Funds were also used to insulate the building and add light-emitting diode (LED) lighting.
Bridges was proud to show off the building at a public open house last September, saying, “I hope this is a model for another project in the future. Our building will be 100 years old in 2017. Can you imagine what you could do with a new building.”
Patane joined the committee after funding for energy projects was approved by a “very fragile vote” in 2014, funding that was not supported by the Budget Committee. “I said, ‘You guys are hiding under rocks and you need to let people know what you’re doing.’”
This year, the committee embarked on a project, still to be approved by voters, to switch all of the town’s 830 streetlights to LED lighting. Consulting firm Celtic Energy, Inc. was hired to plan the project and hire companies to design and install the system. Chris Lotspeich of Celtic Energy said the town could save as much as $150 per light per year by making the conversion from conventional bulbs. He estimated it would take the town about six years to pay back the upfront costs to buy, install and maintain the new bulbs.
Town Manager Steve Burns calls the project “a no-brainer. It’s a good idea because it saves energy, although I don’t see it saving money. But it’s a better quality of light, and projects like this make the country more efficient, and places less demand on oil in the Middle East. Energy conservation is the right approach.”
As year ends, the committee is working on an energy chapter to the town’s Comprehensive Plan, and is investigating the costs to set up private solar farms in town before a critical tax credit expires in 2016.
Burns said while energy is, overall, a small part of the town’s budget, “there’s plenty of stuff that can be done. I want to make sure we’re not going to do anything that makes irrational changes, but I have asked my department heads to look at this and ask themselves, “Is this the most energy efficient option? If not, why not? It’s a good question to ask.”
As reported in the Science section of the Oct. 21, 2015 New York Times, 2015 is likely to be a record-breaker for global warming.
Global temperatures are running far above last year’s record-setting level, all but guaranteeing that 2015 will be the hottest year in the historical record — and undermining political claims that global warming had somehow stopped.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the American agency that tracks worldwide temperatures, announced Wednesday that last month had been the hottest September on record, and in fact took the biggest leap above the previous September that any month has displayed since 1880, when tracking began at a global scale. The agency also announced that the January-to-September period had been the hottest such span on the books.
For much of the past decade, people who question established climate science have been claiming that global warming had stopped. Their argument depended on picking a particular base year — almost always 1998, the final year of the last strong El Niño — as their starting point.
But mainstream climate scientists said that was a statistically invalid cherry-picking of the data, and their analysis of the entire record showed that global warming never stopped — at most, the rise of surface temperatures slowed somewhat, even as the oceans continued to warm at a brisk pace.
The record-setting warmth of 2014 and 2015 has undermined the idea that the problem of greenhouse emissions had somehow solved itself, though some Washington politicians continue to repeat the claims. Climate scientists have not wavered in their view that the long-term temperature increase poses profound risks and that emissions must be brought under control.
The question is, will world leaders take action before it’s too late, or will they pass the problem on to future generations? Keep your eyes on the Paris global climate conference in early December.
Read the rest of the article.
The latest generation of LED (light emitting diode) exterior lighting is significantly more energy efficient than even high pressure sodium fixtures (the orange-tinted street lights that are commonly used). And what’s made the recent use of LED lights take off is the dramatic decline in prices for all types of LED fixtures. However, especially when . . . → Read More: Why is the color of LED lighting so important?
Approved by the Board of Selectmen 5-0, Article 7, a ban on single-use plastic carryout bags, will be on the ballot November 3. Voting is at York High School between 8 AM and 8 PM.
Ways You Can Help Pass the York Bag Ordinance
Canvass for Support. You can help by volunteering . . . → Read More: Vote on Nov. 3 to reduce plastic bag waste
From the 9/30/15 York Weekly story written by Deborah McDermott:
YORK – There was, literally, energy to spare at the York Beach fire station Saturday afternoon, as a crowd of more than 50 residents and well-wishers from throughout the region came there to learn about how the department reduced its energy bill from $325 to . . . → Read More: 98-year-old fire station a ‘high-performing energy system’
An expert from the Rocky Mountain Institute argues that solar energy may be more glamorous, but efficiency, the old workhorse of green buildings, remains a winner, just not in all cases.
“Efficiency first” is the mantra in green and net-zero buildings; you always do energy efficiency first and then cover the remaining balance of energy . . . → Read More: In an Age of Cheap Solar Does Efficiency Still Matter?
Save the Date: September 26th @ 3:00 pm
Please join York’s Energy Steering Committee, York Beach Fire Department, public officials and York residents for a reception and dedication to celebrate the new solar panels at the York Beach Fire Station.
At 18 Railroad Ave., York Beach, Maine.
. . . → Read More: Save the Date: September 26th Celebration
Just how dumb do they think we are?
Who would believe that destroying the ecosystems on which all life depends, while dis-employing more and more people, is somehow good for the economy? Whose economy?
But that’s exactly the fiction that has been successfully marketed to us: jobs versus the environment.
The next economy that’s now . . . → Read More: Addressing both environmental destruction and social inequality