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Maine House Gives Initial Thumbs Up To Bill Ending 'Gross Metering'

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
Portland solar array, atop the capped Ocean Avenue Landfill.

The Maine House this morning gave initial approval to a bill that would end so-called "gross metering."  That's a policy of the Public Utilities Commission that aimed to collect a fee on power generated by solar cells. The fee is intended to support the costs of maintaining the electric power grid, which solar panel owners might have to rely on for power at certain times.

Democratic Rep. Seth Berry, of Bowdoinham, described it another way. "The policy, in effect, is somewhat like growing your own tomatoes in your backyard and having the grocery store, the local Hannaford or Shaw's, charging you for that tomato because you did not purchase it from them."

The PUC has already ended the practice for medium and large users of electricity. 

Republican Rep. Jeffrey Handley, of Pittston, said he favors the end of gross metering, but argued that he'd rather see the Legislature pass a measure that ends the practice of paying above-market rates to solar panel owners when they feed electricity back to the grid.

"It is not what is in this bill that is the problem, it's what's left out of it," Handley said. "And what is left out of it is the standing policy of above-market rates that non-solar people, ratepayers, have to pay to support the solar policies that are in place."