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Posted on: February 14, 2020

City Council to Discuss Opportunity for Portland to Join Solar Consortium

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The Portland City Council will discuss an opportunity for the City to join a renewable energy consortium at its Wednesday, February 19, 2020 Council meeting. Joining the consortium would help achieve several of the City’s climate action goals and result in significant cost savings. Staff is requesting that the Council pass the order as an emergency in order to allow the City to sign on time with the other consortium members. 

Last fall, the Maine Legislature passed and Governor Mills signed LD 1711, which significantly reformed Maine’s Net Energy Billing policies. One important change was the creation of a net energy billing tariff, that allows municipalities and medium sized businesses to develop solar projects and be compensated for the electricity produced with monetary credits on their electric bills. Previously, net energy billing only provided credits in kilowatt hours. Customers whose bills included electricity demand charges were not able to fully benefit because these kwh credits could not be applied to demand charges. The City of Portland falls into this category. 

Following adoption of the law, Competitive Energy Services (CES) invited the City to participate in a consortium of business and public sector buyers interested in participating in the new net energy billing program. CES issued an RFP and received proposals from 19 developers representing 119 individual projects. If the Council approves, the City, as a member of the consortium, would purchase a percentage of each of the most competitive proposed projects. The City would sign a Net Energy Billing Credits Agreement (NEBCA) that would cumulatively meet the 20,000,000 kwh (kilowatt hour) commitment to the consortium. This represents about 2/3 of the City’s total annual electrical consumption.

The City has participated in a solicitation for renewable energy generated by projects eligible to participate in the State of Maine’s net energy billing program. The City’s energy consultant, CES issued an RFP on behalf of a large number of their clients including L.L. Bean, the University of Maine System, Nestle Waters, and others. In total, the consortium requested over 200 megawatts of  renewable energy generation. The City would contract for approximately 10% of this capacity.

The Council order authorizes the City Manager to enter into a NEBCA with the owners of the most competitive projects proposed to CES. State law limits the size of eligible projects to 5 MWs (megawatts) or less, so the City would enter agreements for power from multiple projects to meet the requirements of the consortium. The City would acquire a percentage share of each of the projects that fulfill the consortium’s requested generation capacity. 

The City Council has expressed a goal to operate the City on 100% renewable energy and to eliminate carbon emissions. Approval of this order would help the City make significant progress toward these goals because the NEBCA allows the City to retain the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) for the power purchased. Additionally, the City will be supporting the addition of over 20,000,000 kwh of clean energy onto the Maine power grid each year, potentially eliminating the need for power to be generated from other sources. As part of the Consortium, the City expects to purchase approximately 2/3 of the combined City and School Department demand for electricity. 

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