Maine Senator drafts unprecedented distributed energy resources bill

2 min read
8 May, 2015

Maine Senator Angus King has submitted a bill that could shape energy markets nationwide if signed into law. The Free Market Energy Act of 2015 focuses on distributed energy resources and the parameters of state versus federal rights to dictate and authorize specifics regarding grid interconnection. Additionally, the measure seeks to nail down once and for all how DERs can be priced fairly and define the energy running through it in new ways.

According to E&E Publishing, King spent nearly 30 years working in the energy sector, one of his earliest clients having been a renewable energy company. While King's camp believes the passage of this law could give rise to a residential and commercial boom in DER technology adoption and national grid improvement, opponents argue it convolutes a functional energy system and pushes the costs of maintaining and constructing a more complex grid on the ratepayers who choose not to participate in DER services.

"King argues net metering deincentivizes distributed energy technology purchases."

Installation timeframe and pricing must reflect a progressive outlook on the future of an integrated grid
King's legislation would mandate that state's make extra considerations into DER-related services. According to the text, the bill brings certain types of granular data to the table, including issues like time-of-use pricing and the effect a particular location would have on the value of the energy generated in question.

This choice would align with the variable rates retail energy providers charge their customers and provide DER owners with the same benefits. As energy prices fluctuate over the course of a day, so too will the energy flowing through DERs. This wouldn't limit this kind of energy from fixed rate purchases by utilities and retail energy providers.

Utility Dive reported if states do not or cannot adjust, distributed energy would be granted "Qualifying Facility" status under the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act, mandating utilities purchase this energy regardless of any prior legislation or rulings to the contrary.

DERs like solar energy require an open dialogue about two-way grid operations, says Sen. King.DERs like solar energy require an open dialogue about two-way grid operations, says Sen. King.

Net metering needs a major reassessment to avoid DER dismissal from potential investors
Caught in King's sights as well are national net metering initiatives. He argues these programs have a habit of deincentivizing distributed energy technology purchases by setting unrepresentative value hierarchies and tying exorbitant costs to DER systems instead of the energy they produce. The example his office uses in a fact sheet preceding the release of the bill outlines discusses the troubling relationship between net metering programs and residential solar panel usage. By favoring south-facing installations, these programs overlook the benefits of west-facing panels, which play a major role in utilizing DERs in the evening when the grid needs the most help.

Additionally, the bill would cap extraneous fixed costs from utilities at $10. History has shown additional surcharges have a drastic effect on DER adoption. SolarCity learned that lesson the hard way in Arizona, where local utility Salt River Project decided to charge $50 per month for solar panel use. According to Greentech Media, SolarCity saw an immediate 96 percent drop in regional solar applications. 

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