Glen Brand of the Sierra Club at Solar Rally

Glen Brand, executive director of Maine’s Sierra Club, takes the megaphone and says his piece about solar taxation at a solar rally held April, 2014 in protest of CMP proposed rate hike

As reported in the Portland Press Herald and on MPBN News, CMP and most intervenors in the rate design case have reached a tentative settlement which would axe the worst of CMP’s proposals – the proposed standby rate that would have singled out and punished customers who generate their own power with solar, wind, or other renewable sources.

The settlement (technically called a ‘stipulation’) instead gives CMP authority to make a 4.1% increase to all customers (to the tune of roughly $3/month).

While firmly shutting down the notion that solar customers should be singled out for a tax on their renewable energy investments, the partial settlement does not solve CMP’s long-term problems.  CMP must still figure out how to marry the increasing costs of maintaining an aging, fossil-fueled grid with energy efficiency goals, and we realize our vision for the grid and theirs are still very different.

Specifically, the settlement leaves open the question as to whether customers can or should be billed relative to their usage during system peak (the kind of usage which drives the long-term costs of grid expansion), which was the model proposed by GridSolar.  This unresolved issue will enter into litigation, and the answer to it will shape Maine’s energy future.

A Vision of the Grid

At the heart of all of this: is it acceptable that a monopoly be allowed to manipulate policy to continue the status quo, or do we have the imagination and sense to re-frame energy policy to allow renewable energy to compete on an equal playing field?  We vote strongly for the latter, as renewable-friendly policy would allow a less centralized, cleaner, and more efficient grid to replace what we have now, with investments largely driven by the private sector and not the public coffers.While this is a modest victory, it is significant, as the standby rate threatened to chill the growth of solar energy in Maine.

We would like to express our deepest thanks to the hundreds of customers and other solar allies who have been instrumental in showing up, being present, sending in letters of support, writing in to papers, speaking on the radio and appearing on television.  It is significant that in the wording of the settlement, CMP themselves noted that the “numerous members of the public at the public witness hearings and in comments filed on the Commission’s CMS system” were a factor in their deciding to abandon the standby rate.

The settlement is not yet final – it must first be deliberated on by the members of the PUC, who are expected to do so on July 29th.  Assuming the PUC’s approval, CMP’s increased rates will go into effect on September 1, 2014.

ReVision Energy continues to work hard at our mission to move New England away from fossil fuels, whether in our efforts every day to install reliable, clean-generating solar energy systems, or by working in the statehouse or PUC to advocate on behalf of the policy framework to support it.  We’re proud to be part of a state where politics are still local and part of a future where individuals will have greater opportunity to control their energy sources.

Ready to Go Forward

If the CMP Rate Case had made you anxious about going forward with a solar investment, then the time to get started again is now! Our queue is filling up quickly and we are already scheduling into September – if you want solar on your roof this year, contact us now.