Solar Industry News

Maine PUC Report: Benefits of Solar Outweigh Program Costs

A new report, released in April by the Maine Public Utilities Commission, has a clear conclusion: the tangible economic benefits of Net Energy Billing exceed the program’s costs. For 2023, the costs were approximately $130 million, while the benefits were $160 million.  

Let's not lose sight of the big picture.

Mainers are experiencing the damaging impacts of climate change today, from flooding and erosion to wildfire smoke and poor air quality. We know that fossil fuels cause such damage, and to avoid this continued future, we must transition rapidly to a clean energy economy.  

Over the past few years, the costs of natural gas have spiked, and those fighting the clean energy transition have blamed the solar industry while giving the real culprit—fossil fuels—a pass.  

In 2023, CMP raised rates to 28 cents per kWh — 60% of that rate (16.6 cents) was due to supply costs (natural gas), and 4% (1 cent) was due to stranded costs—which includes clean energy programs, among other things. It has been immensely frustrating for clean energy advocates to watch opponents fight this 4% of our bills instead of identifying real solutions to get Mainers off the volatile pricing of fossil fuels, which accounts for 60% of monthly bills in CMP territory in 2023. 

Forward-looking reform

That's why, in 2023, ReVision Energy worked alongside other clean energy advocates in the Maine Statehouse to pass legislation that reformed our state’s Net Energy Billing program. Part of this reform was to ensure the PUC conduct an annual evaluation of both the costs and benefits of the NEB program. To date, only programmatic costs had been calculated (and recovered through stranded cost proceedings), and benefits, including tangible economic and environmental benefits, had not yet been evaluated to have a clear understanding of the program’s net impact. 

Talking about the costs of this program - which provides clean energy to thousands of Maine residents, municipalities, schools, and businesses -without consideration of benefits is only telling half the story. According to the independent analysis released by the MPUC on April 1, for 2023, the NEB program costs were approximately $130 million, while the benefits were $160 million. Essentially, for every dollar we invest in the program, we receive $1.23 back in benefits. 

Just a few of the benefits of distributed generation that were identified in the report:

  1. Avoided energy and capacity costs
  2. Avoided transmission and distribution costs
  3. Avoided fossil fuel costs
  4. Avoided transmission and distribution line losses
  5. Demand reduction induced price effects
  6. Transmission and distribution plant extensions or upgrades funded by the net energy billing customers

At ReVision Energy, we actually find these savings conservative due to the specific program costs evaluated. The study does not break down costs as it does benefits, nor outline specific cost categories included. For this reason, we believe the programmatic benefits of NEB will likely be even greater.

The bottom line: Maine’s NEB program is delivering tangible economic and environmental benefits to all, and these benefits exceed the costs of the program.

Overall, this report is a critical step forward for the public narrative around the costs of Maine’s NEB program—it paints a clear picture that NEB program costs are a smart investment in our clean energy future as they are definitively outweighed by a myriad of societal benefits.

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