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Maine regulators tweak net metering to track falling solar costs

Maine utility regulators said they are cutting incentives for rooftop solar customers to reflect the technology's declining cost.

The Public Utilities Commission on Jan. 31 voted to reduce customer bill credits for transmission and distribution, or T&D, costs under the state's net energy metering program, which provides incentives for homeowners who install rooftop solar systems.

The change, which will apply to residential customers who install solar panels on or after Jan. 1, 2018, is designed to track falling technology costs so that the estimated payback for new systems will be "similar to what it has been historically," the commission said in a news release.

A customer who installs a solar system in the first year of the new rule, for example, would receive the full energy incentive and 90% of the T&D incentive for 15 years. The T&D incentive would drop to 80% for customers who install solar systems the following year.

"The resulting rule ... maintains incentive margins consistent with the declining costs of solar technology," the commission said.

The Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy group in New England, said changes to Maine's net metering policy were unnecessary. Such policy adjustments should have been left to state lawmakers, the group said.