A college president, city managers and school superintendents, including Kathryn Clark, School Union 69, and Maria Libby, Five Town CSD and SAD 28, have submitted a letter to Gov. Janet Mills and leaders of the Legislature, raising concerns over Central Maine Power's efforts to increase grid interconnection costs for solar projects after contracts were already signed.
The letter comes from municipalities and organizations that have contracts to purchase solar power from projects, “that are now facing uncertainty because of CMP's after-the-fact requests for increased fees, and the possibility of significant delays in construction as a result,” according to a news release from the Coalition for Community Solar Access.
"We have put considerable time and funding...toward incorporating lower-cost, clean, renewable energy into our energy mix by engaging with solar project developers who are now being told by CMP that additional delays and costs may be added to these projects," the letter said. "Some of these solar projects are already constructed, some are far along in the planning stages, and all of them involve already-executed net energy billing credit agreements or power purchase agreements to which we—the purchasers of this new source of renewable energy—are parties and on which we are relying to reduce and stabilize our electricity costs and transition to renewable energy."
See below for the full letter.
The Coalition for Community Solar Access and the Maine Renewable Energy Association call for an investigation into CMP's interconnection process, and the Maine Public Utilities Commission last week announced a series of investigations related to the issue. (Read: Maine Public Utilities Commission to examine state’s electric distribution system)
"The impacts of CMP's interconnection debacle extend far beyond solar developers and investors," said Kaitlin Kelly O'Neill, Northeast Regional Director of CCSA. "As this letter shows, Maine communities, businesses, and education systems that have joined the effort to reduce carbon emissions through the purchase of clean, renewable power are facing the uncertainty of increased costs and delays as a direct result of CMP's mishandling of this issue."
The full list of signatories of the letter are:
Phillip L. Crowell, Jr., City Manager, City of Auburn
Jon Jennings, City Manager, City of Portland
James Andrews, Trustee, Farmington Village Corporation
David J. Daigler, President, Maine Community College System
Craig King, Superintendent, Maine School Administrative District No. 15
Maria Libby, Superintendent Maine School Administrative District No. 28 and Five Town CSD
Xavier Botana, Superintendent, Portland Public Schools
Becky J. Foley, Superintendent, Regional School Unit No. 5
Howard Tuttle, Superintendent, Regional School Unit No. 12
Christopher Howell, Superintendent, Regional School Unit No. 14
Regan Nickels, Superintendent, Regional School Unit No. 22
Scott Albert, Superintendent, Regional School Unit No. 73
Sanford Prince, Superintendent, Scarborough Schools
Kathryn Clark, Superintendent, School Union 69
Amy Kuhn, Chair of Town Council, Town of Falmouth
The letter follows:
To Maine’s Elected Leaders:
As beneficiaries of Maine's solar law (L.D. 1711, “An Act To Promote Solar Energy Projects and Distributed Generation Resources in Maine”), we are writing to you because we are deeply concerned by CMP’s recent announcement that dozens of solar projects throughout its service area are allegedly causing technical problems at nearly half of CMP’s substations and that the fixes to these problems could require costly upgrades to the electricity grid.
We have put considerable time and funding since the enactment of L.D. 1711 toward incorporating lower-cost, clean, renewable energy into our energy mix by engaging with solar project developers who are now being told by CMP that additional delays and costs may be added to these projects. Some of these solar projects are already constructed, some are far along in the planning stages, and all of them involve already-executed net energy billing credit agreements or power purchase agreements to which we—the purchasers of this new source of renewable energy—are parties and on which we are relying to reduce and stabilize our electricity costs and transition to renewable energy.
As the purchasers of electricity and the associated net energy billing credits from these solar projects, we now also face the uncertainty of additional delays and additional, unplanned costs.
We understand that the process of installing and interconnecting solar projects in a burgeoning market is complicated and can run into technical challenges. We are perplexed, however, by CMP’s late announcement and we are concerned that the magnitude of these problems is still unclear.
Investments in the renewable energy marketplace are only as successful as the consistency of the laws and market expectations that underpin them. We urge you to continue to send the signal to
clean energy developers that Maine is equipped to handle the rapid transition to electrification and decarbonization. And we urge the utilities to collaborate with solar developers, offtakers, and the administration to work toward getting these projects built and in operation as quickly as possible.
Maine's bold movement toward a sustainable energy future is not an easy one. Ensuring an equitable balance between consumer costs, environmental sustainability, and fair market treatment is complicated, and we salute the progress you have made to date on Maine's behalf.
We encourage your continued efforts to establish an environmentally and financially sound energy policy for the state, and to protect our investments in the clean and renewable community solar projects that are being developed and operated here in Maine as a direct result of your hard work.