CMP hikes bills $5 monthly to support solar energy projects.

By Oliver Townsend Jun 19, 2024
CMP bills to go up another $5 a month to subsidize solar projects.jpegOrginal image from: https://www.pressherald.com/2024/06/18/cmp-bills-to-go-up-another-5-a-month-to-subsidize-solar-projects/

Central Maine Power Co. customers are set to see another increase in their monthly bills, this time by an additional $5. This rate hike, approved by state regulators, comes on the heels of a previous $10 increase authorized last week. The purpose of these increases is to cover a nearly 50% rise in the amount CMP pays to solar developers. This payment is part of a state law aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting solar projects.

Details of the Rate Increase

The new rates will take effect starting July 1 and will remain in place until June of the following year. This latest hike will enable CMP to bring in $179.3 million over the next year to fund solar developers. This amount marks a 47% increase from the $91.1 million currently collected from ratepayers. The increase is specifically designated as a pass-through payment to solar developers under the net energy billing program.

Political and Legislative Response

Republicans have criticized the rate hike, blaming Democrats for the higher electricity costs. Senate Minority Leader Trey Stewart accused Democrats of sending money to out-of-state and out-of-country solar developers, resulting in increased costs for consumers. However, Democrats defended the program, highlighting the benefits of solar power displacing other, more expensive energy sources.

Legislative Outlook and Opposition

Despite the criticism, lawmakers do not anticipate changes to the net billing program in the near future. The program has faced opposition in the past, with eligibility restrictions and changes in project size requirements. While some industry groups have opposed the rate increase, the PUC has defended its decision as necessary to prevent even higher future costs for ratepayers.

Implications and Future Considerations

As the debate around solar energy incentives continues, the PUC plans to evaluate the cost-benefit analysis of Maine’s solar energy market. This review will include an examination of net energy billing and utility profitability from solar programs. The goal is to ensure that ratepayers are not burdened with excessive costs while promoting renewable energy development in the state.

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