An Act Regarding Solar Power for Farms and Businesses
Sec. 1. 35-A MRSA §3209-A, as enacted by PL 2011, c. 262, §1, is repealed and the following enacted in its place:
§ 3209-A. Net energy billing
For the purposes of this section, "net energy billing" means a billing and metering practice under which a customer is billed on the basis of net energy over the billing period taking into account accumulated bill credits for unused kilowatt-hours from the previous billing period.
Sec. 2. 35-A MRSA §3471-A is enacted to read:
§ 3471-A. Definitions
As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, the following terms have the following meanings.
Sec. 3. 35-A MRSA §§3475 to 3478 are enacted to read:
§ 3475. Standard buyer
The standard buyer designated pursuant to this section must aggregate the output of the portfolio of distributed generation resources procured pursuant to this chapter and sell or use the output of these resources in a manner that maximizes the value of the portfolio of resources to all ratepayers.
§ 3476. Large-scale commercial, municipal, industrial solar procurement
The monthly production must be determined by a revenue-grade meter installed and paid for by the participating large-scale commercial solar distributed generation resource customer account holder.
§ 3477. Small business distributed generation credit rate program
The small business distributed generation credit rate program, referred to in this section as "the program," is established as an alternative to net energy billing.
§ 3478. Bill credits
This section applies to any credits assigned to a customer's bill under this chapter.
If the value of the credit to be applied to a customer's bill is less than the amount owed by the customer at the end of the applicable billing period, the customer must be billed for the difference between the amount shown on the bill and the value of the available credits.
If the value of the credits to be applied to a customer's bill is greater than the amount owed by the customer at the end of the applicable billing period, the remaining value of the credit must carry over from month to month until a specified date each year. The commission shall establish a minimum of 2 standard credit expiration dates that provide customers the opportunity to use bill credits to the maximum extent practicable in a given 12-month period. Any remaining credits as of that date must be credited to the standard buyer and may not be applied against any future customer bill.
Sec. 4. Rules. The Public Utilities Commission shall adopt rules by January 1, 2018 to implement the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 35-A, sections 3475 to 3478.
Sec. 5. Net energy billing rules. The commission shall amend its net energy billing rules adopted pursuant to the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 35-A, section 3209-A to be substantively equivalent to the rules in effect on January 1, 2017, except the rules must be consistent with Title 35-A, section 3209-A, subsection 1. Notwithstanding Title 35-A, section 3209-A, subsection 2, rules adopted for this purpose are routine technical rules, as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A.
Sec. 6. Net energy billing analysis. The Public Utilities Commission shall conduct an analysis of the costs and benefits to ratepayers from net energy billing. The analysis must include all identifiable costs and benefits for net energy billing participants and nonparticipants, including but not limited to the costs and benefits described in Public Law 2013, chapter 562, section 2. The analysis must at a minimum look at costs and benefits over a 10-year period and a 25-year period. Where uncertainty exists with regard to a future cost or benefit, the commission shall use assumptions for what it considers the most likely higher and lower value scenarios. The commission shall submit a report by December 31, 2019 and another report by December 31, 2020 to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over utilities and energy matters. The commission shall submit with the December 31, 2019 report information regarding any programs the commission is conducting and recommendations regarding alternatives to net energy billing that would encourage distributed energy resource projects. The commission shall submit with the December 31, 2020 report recommendations regarding net energy billing based on the costs and benefits analysis including methods for encouraging and integrating distributed energy resources to increase efficiency of the electric grid while reducing costs. Methods may include, but are not limited to, rate design and time of use rates, direct deployment of aggregated solar and storage systems, distributed energy rates or changes to transmission and distribution system planning. In developing these reports, the commission shall consult with stakeholders that include, but are not limited to, transmission and distribution utilities, consumer advocates, distributed energy installers or suppliers, conservation organizations and experts in rate design. At least 60 days before submitting the December 31, 2019 report and the December 31, 2020 report to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over utilities and energy matters, the commission shall post the reports on its publicly accessible website. Within that period of time, a member of the public may submit to the commission written comments regarding the report. The commission shall submit all comments received to the committee with the report. The joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over utilities and energy matters may report out a bill relating to the December 31, 2020 report.
This bill amends the law regarding net energy billing and makes the adoption of net energy billing rules major substantive instead of routine technical, except that rules adopted to be consistent with the changes in the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 35-A, section 3209-A, subsection 1, substantively equivalent to the rules in effect prior to March 29, 2017 and that must be completed by December 1, 2017, are routine technical rules.
The bill directs the Public Utilities Commission to enter into long-term contracts with a duration of 20 years for the procurement of 50 megawatts of large-scale commercial solar distributed generation resources by 2022. The bill requires that 8 megawatts of the 50-megawatt procurement target be from large commercial solar distributed generation resources for projects associated with an agricultural or forest products business.
The bill creates a standard buyer, which the bill specifies is the investor-owned transmission and distribution utility in its service territory. The bill allows the commission to designate another entity as the standard buyer if it determines it is in the best interest of ratepayers to do so. The purpose of the standard buyer is to purchase the output of each category of distributed generation resource, aggregate the portfolio of distributed generation resources procured and sell or use the output of these resources in a manner that maximizes the value of this portfolio of resources to all ratepayers.
The bill directs the commission to conduct competitive solicitations for 20% of the 5-year target procurement for long-term contracts for the output of large-scale commercial solar distributed generation resources twice per year. The bill directs the commission and standard buyer to develop a contract prior to a solicitation that will ensure that projects proceed to commercial operation on a reasonable timeline and commits all parties to commercially reasonable behavior.
The bill gives the commission authority to establish requirements for bidder eligibility and standards to ensure competition in the bidding process. The bill also specifies that if the solicitation is fully competitive, the commission must select one or more winning bids and direct the standard buyer to negotiate and enter into a contract with the winning bidder or bidders. If the commission concludes the solicitation is not competitive, no bidders may be selected and the capacity available in that solicitation must be deferred to a subsequent solicitation. The bill requires the commission to select bids that maximize the benefits or minimize the costs to all ratepayers.
The bill directs the commission to give preference to projects associated with affordable multifamily housing. The bill requires the commission to review bids for projects associated with affordable multifamily housing at 1¢ less per kilowatt-hour than the actual bid, but if such a project is awarded a contract, it is paid at the actual bid rate and not the rate used for review. This same process is allowed in the bill after December 31, 2019 for projects associated with an agricultural or forest products business if the commission determines that solicitations are not likely to result in the procurement of 8 megawatts of solar projects associated with an agricultural or forest products business by 2022.
The bill also includes a small business distributed generation credit rate program as an alternative to net energy billing for nonresidential customers.
The bill includes language on how bill credits are to be determined for a customer.
The bill requires the Public Utilities Commission to adopt routine technical rules regarding the procurement of large-scale commercial solar distributed generation resources by January 1, 2018.
The bill also requires the commission to submit multiple reports on the effectiveness of the bill credit program at increasing installations of distributed generation resources and its expected short-term and long-term effect on ratepayers, as well as multiple reports regarding net energy billing and alternatives to net energy billing.