The Maine Public Utilities Commission is a Maine agency that regulates the operations of electric transmission, broadband and water utilities. It hears requests from electricity distributors including CMP and Versant and sets rates and rules for utility distribution and purchase by end users. Three PUC commissioners rely on the work of their enlarged staff to implement recent legislative laws in areas of increasing renewable energy and stricter oversight of electric utilities.

After Maine’s most recent energy law passed in 2019, private investors and solar companies quickly started to invest in community solar projects in Maine that would guarantee them a significant return on investment. A large number of community solar projects with offers of 10%-15% lower electric rates quickly filled their subscribers and got in line to have CMP connect them to the grid.

Grid connection for these mostly just under 5kW projects takes time and technicians and electricians to add transformers to upload electricity to the higher-powered transmission lines. Our family joined Power Market in June 2021 and was able to start buying solar credits in August. Now there seems to be a backlog of fully subscribed community solar projects that are waiting to connect and begin delivering electricity to the grid and crediting subscribers. I will talk about the benefits of community solar and the joining process in late winter, which is the best time to subscribe, so you will start receiving and paying for solar generation credits when the daylight is growing, and the sun is at a higher level to create more solar electricity.

Mainers have an Office of Public Advocate, which advocates for high-quality, affordable electricity rates when the PUC makes decisions about electric rates, services and practices. Maine’s public advocate, William Harwood, and his staff of lawyers also intervene on the federal level for lower wholesale electric rates and on issues of interstate transmission of gas and electricity. Go to to see how these lawyers help consumers keep prices low and to find questions to ask a community solar provider. The PUC will have more leverage to improve electric service with a new law passed by the Maine Legislature this year.

Microgrids are smaller systems for electric generation and distribution that serve universities, essential service systems like hospitals, large industries or businesses. The former Navy Base at Brunswick Landing has an advanced electric distribution system that was designed to operate independently of the larger grid in case of war or another emergency. This microgrid uses electricity generated in a methane conversion process with fuel supplied by the Brunswick/Topsham sewage treatment plant. Brunswick Redevelopment Authority, which has directed the management of the old Navy property, has added a 1.5MW solar array and has plans for a second methane digester to increase the Brunswick Landing green energy supply from its current 65%. Currently, the rest of the Brunswick Landing electricity is purchased from outside wind sources.

Colleges and universities, including the 45,000-person University of San Diego, have built microgrids to more affordably use fuels for electricity and heating purposes. Gas and steam turbines and a 1.2MW solar cell installation provide 95% of the heating and cooling and 85% of the community’s electric needs.


The Rockefeller Institution has partnered with Tata Power to install microgrids in 200 rural villages in India since 2015. This new access to electricity will provide irrigation for farmers and will support hundreds of new rural enterprises for more of the 100 million Indians who currently have no electricity. A wonderful book I read recently is “The Boy Who Harvested the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, about a brilliant young boy in Malawi whose family couldn’t afford to continue sending him to school, yet with a few books, he amazed his community by producing the first windmill that they had ever seen from waste materials. Discovered by a Malawian government education administrator, William became a TED fellow, attended Dartmouth College and now works for his Living Windmills project to provide basic electricity and irrigation technology to farming communities throughout Malawi, which was flooded, and farming communities ravaged by Tropical Storm Anna in January.

Distributive power is the term for local sources of electricity that are used close to where the power is produced. Local generation has the benefit of reducing the loss of electricity, which increases with the distance from source to end use. So, less electricity is wasted by transmission as Maine continues to develop community solar projects than if Maine imports large-scale hydropower from Quebec. Hydroelectric plants on rivers and municipal solid waste incineration are older Maine examples of distributed electric generation. For residential applications, electricity can be supplied by solar photovoltaic panels, small wind turbines, natural gas-fired cells or emergency backup diesel or gas generators. Examples of industrial distributed power in Maine are cogeneration facilities that burn waste wood to produce both heat and electricity for wood processing mills.

Distributive power generation has increased in the U.S. in response to many states’ incentives and directives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with renewable sources of electricity. Maine has been an early adapter of wind, home, business and community solar systems. Maine’s net energy billing law allows individuals and businesses that generate distributed electricity to obtain credit for that electricity at the current standard offer value of approximately $0.12/kWh. Community solar members who subscribe to a 10% program can reduce their subscription rate to $0.102/kWh or $0.108/kWh if they subscribe to a 15% solar discount. Electric rates for ALL customers of CMP will still include the $13.73 distribution charge.

The best way to reduce your power bill is to reduce your use of high-powered electric appliances like space heaters, hair and clothes driers. Indoor humidity is usually so low in the winter that clothes dry overnight hung in the basement or spare room. Outdoor clothes lines from spring though the fall give you a chance to enjoy the outdoors and give your clothes a fresh scent while drying in as few as four hours in the sun.

Microgrids are electrical distribution systems that supply a local area varying in size from individual houses up to community or industrial electric needs. How could microgrids benefit rural Mainers, particularly in coastal and rural areas that often lose power from winter storms? Microgrids can be used with a local power source to provide continuous electrical service during regional power outages or during peak electric use times. Microgrids combined with battery storage can be created to use electricity from wind, community solar or hydroelectric generators on a smaller scale than the current massive wind machines. In Unity, Maine, the Common Ground Fair ran all of its electricity needs to feed and service 25,000 people daily for three days from solar and one small wind machine.

Nancy Chandler studied Animal Behavior and Anthropology at Stanford University, then received her master’s in biology education in her home state of North Carolina at U.N.C. Chapel Hill. She is passionate about teaching energy conservation and hopes to get you thinking about how to use energy use efficiently to save both money and reduce greenhouse warming gases.

Comments are not available on this story.