Senate Republicans call for reform of the Maine PUC as well as overhaul or repeal of net-energy billing

Proposed legislation and policy solutions range from creating greater accountability and transparency to the PUC’s bidding process to prioritizing ratepayers and reforming or repealing net-energy billing
Sen. Matt Harrington (center) gives remarks during a press briefing regarding energy issues that was held by Senate Republicans on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

AUGUSTA – Senate Republicans unveiled legislation on Tuesday to help combat rising energy prices in Maine. The press briefing was held amid the recent increase in electricity supply rates that went into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

“Skyrocketing energy costs are crushing Maine families and small businesses – not just in my district but across Maine,” Sen. Matt Harrington, R-York, said during the briefing. “For far too long, the party in power has catered to special interest groups and pursued energy policy that has been an abject failure.”

Harrington said Republicans have submitted legislation toward satisfying several policy goals and he agreed with incorporating renewable energy into the State’s portfolio – when it makes sense.

“As lawmakers, we must strike a balance between investing in renewable energy and lowering costs for Maine’s people,” he said. “And right now, lowering costs has to be the priority. Too many Maine families are struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and put gas in their vehicles.”

One bill Harrington referenced would remove the 100-megawatt cap on hydropower, which is currently ineligible for the mandated Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) ratio calculation. Both Harrington and Senate Republican Leader Trey Stewart, R-Aroostook, also spoke at length about the negative effects of net-energy billing, especially as it grows uncontrollably in the months and years ahead.

“It’s going to cost more now. It’s going to cost more going into the future and something that we need to be steering away rather than head-first into,” Stewart said. “[It is] a direct result of kickbacks that are going to the solar lobby.”

Harrington referred to a recent Bangor Daily News interview with Maine Public Advocate William Harwood. “I agree with the words of our Public Advocate who recently said, ‘The program disproportionately hurts low-income people who aren’t participating in community solar,’” he said.

Stewart spoke about the need to also bring transparency and accountability to the Public Utilities Commission’s bidding process. “Maybe there’s a better way we can go about doing it, and those are the ideas we should be exploring this session,” he said.

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