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Central Maine Power admits mistakes in response to spate of solar power project proposals

Biden Renewables
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
Solar panels stretch across 38 acres at the BNRG/Dirigo solar farm, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Oxford, Maine.

Central Maine Power is admitting it made mistakes in the way it handled a surge in requests by solar power developers to hook into the electricity grid, and it has agreed to significant investments to improve the process.

Solar power developers stampeded into Maine last year, spurred by new incentives. But the actual buildout was hampered by CMP's slow and sometimes inaccurate provision of planning studies needed to safely interconnect new projects to its system.

Now CMP is admitting it was at fault, and it's putting up $700,000 in shareholder funds to pay for six new planning staffers and to convene a group planning effort that includes the company, developers, regulators and others.

"From an industry standpoint we felt that there was lack of resources at CMP. They have really good people, but from our perspective it doesn't seem like they had enough good people," says Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association.

That group is one of several stakeholders, including Con Edison, the Office of the Public Advocate and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, to sign on to the stipulated agreement.

In a statement, CMP CEO Joe Purington says the company has improved its response to the challenges of planning for "distributed generation" resources such as solar, and the settlement will foster a more collaborative approach. The agreement must ultimately be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission.

A Columbia University graduate, Fred began his journalism career as a print reporter in Vermont, then came to Maine Public in 2001 as its political reporter, as well as serving as a host for a variety of Maine Public Radio and Maine Public Television programs. Fred later went on to become news director for New England Public Radio in Western Massachusetts and worked as a freelancer for National Public Radio and a number of regional public radio stations, including WBUR in Boston and NHPR in New Hampshire.