Story posted March 06, 2014
Bowdoin's Sustainability Office is focused on helping the college achieve our goal of becoming carbon neutrality by 2020. As part of that effort we are excited about the college's current plans to install a 1,300-kilowatt PV solar system that will off-set roughly 8% of the college's electrical use. However, recent efforts by Central Maine Power have dampened our enthusiasm - by means of a proposed rate design that will impact the financial incentive to invest in renewable energy, both at college and across the Central Maine Power customer base.
At the end of last year, Central Maine Power proposed a “significant change in rate design that would shift cost recovery away from consumption… i.e. kwh usage, to customer and demand charges, i.e., fixed monthly charges,” as articulated by president of Thomas College and Bowdoin alumna, Laurie Lachance ’83. Furthermore, “CMP is proposing a ‘standby’ charge…that will apply to [medium commercial size and above] customers with any amount of on-site generation… which will be based on the single highest hour of usage over a twelve month period… the rate appears to be intentionally designed to discourage investment in onsite generation by CMPs customers.”
The standby rate alone would increase Bowdoin’s bills by $170,000 per year, enough to pay full tuition and board for three students every year.
Not only does this add to college costs, but it will also affect future projects related to sustainability both on and off campus. Charging a fixed rate as opposed to a use-based rate for electricity will eliminate the financial incentive for individuals, businesses, and institutions like Bowdoin to be energy efficient. The standby charge decreases the financial viability of installing renewables at the source. In recent years, renewable installation at community and business levels has become more and more popular because owners of small-renewable energy projects can sell their excess energy beck into the grid and payback their investment in their project faster than before. This rate increase has the potential to threaten the progress Bowdoin and Maine have made towards a low-carbon future.
Students on campus are getting involved to fight the rate case. There will be public hearings at the Maine Public Utilities Commission in Augusta April 2nd and 3rd. For more information, please read this article written by Hugh Ratcliff ’15 or this article from Mainebiz.