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Maine Introduces Feed-in Tariff Legislation

After a long period of quiescence, Maine's state legislature has again taken up feed-in tariffs. Legislative document 1085 to establish the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff was introduced 19 March 2013 and referred to the Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.

Introduced by Senator Chris Johnson (D) and co-sponsored by Senator Jim Boyle (D) sponsors of the bill included three other Democratic state senators, one unaffiliated state senator, two Democratic state representatives, and one Republican state representative.

Committee hearing of the bill has not been scheduled.

This is not Maine’s first attempt at feed-in tariff legislation. The state has a pilot community-based feed-in tariff that became law in 2009. That program limited total capacity to 50 MW with an effective limit of 25 MW. As elsewhere in the US, progress since then has been stymied.

Here is a summary of the proposed program’s details.

  • Purpose: rapid and sustainable development of distributed renewable energy
  • Project size cap: 500 kW
  • Ownership restriction: can own no more than 500 kW of generation in total
  • Technologies included: Solar PV, solar thermal, concentrating solar PV, biogas, landfill gas, biomass, tidal, and wind
  • Carbon restriction: cannot use any fossil fuel or sequestered form of carbon
  • Connection requirement: utilities required to connect within 90 days
  • Interconnection costs: <500 feet from connection point, costs borne by ratepayers, >500 feet from connection point, costs borne by project developer
  • Contract term: 20 years
  • Tariff determination: rates sufficient to operate and attract capital with a minimum rate of return of 3% and not more than 7%, except for solar photovoltaics
  • Tariff for solar photovoltaics: minimum rate of return of 8% and not more than 10%
  • Local content premium: 20% for projects with 70% local content; 10% for projects with 50% local content
  • Public property premium: 5%
  • Biogas from natural sources: 10% for biogas from manure, decaying biomass, and landfills
  • Program cost distribution: non-bypassable surcharge on all ratepayer classes
  • Review: every two years
  • Reporting: every four years to Governor and legislature
  • Tariff determination and rate-setting by the Maine Public Utility Commission based on
    • Operation and maintenance costs
    • Annual principal and interest of loans
    • Cost of a contingency reserve
    • All other reasonable costs and expenses
    • The minimum annual return for new projects is reduced every two years by 0.5% for other than solar PV
    • The minimum annual return for new projects is reduced every two years by 0.5% for solar PV

Lead image: Maine sign via Shutterstock

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