Maine's public benefits fund for renewable energy was established as part of the state's electric industry restructuring legislation, enacted in May 1997. The law directed the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to develop a voluntary program allowing customers to contribute to a fund that supports renewable energy projects. The fund is now part of the Efficiency Maine Trust.
The PUC adopted rules requiring the state's utilities to offer customers the option of supporting the fund by checking off a contribution of $1, $5, $10, or other amount each month on their electric bill. Every six months, each utility must notify its customers of the existence and purpose of the fund, the means to contribute to the fund, and summaries of projects that have been supported by the fund. In 2012, the law was modified to allow voluntary contributions to be used for both renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.
Revenue for the fund also comes from the state's renewable portfolio standard. Utilities may pay an alternative compliance payment (ACP) in lieu of procuring renewable resources to meet portfolio requirements; ACP income supports the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resource Fund. The fund expects to receive about $100,000 per year, primarily from voluntary customer contributions, for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. See Efficiency Maine's Fiscal Years 2014-2016 Triennial Plan for more details.
The fund supports grants for renewable energy demonstration projects to Maine-based nonprofits, consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utilities, community-based nonprofit organizations, community action programs, municipalities, quasi-municipal corporations or districts, and school administrative units. The first funding solicitation was issued in 2003. Funds may also be used for customer-sited, commercialized renewable energy projects. A solar and wind rebate program was previously offered through the Fund, but ended with FY 2015, due to low revenues.
Administration and Reporting
The Efficiency Maine Trust administers the fund and must report to the Joint Standing Committee of the Legislature every year by December 1. The annual report includes a description of commission actions, accounting of total deposits and expenditures from the fund, and a description of any research and development or community demonstration projects that received funding. See the Efficiency Maine Reports for additional information on the Renewable Resource Fund.
In 2007, Public Law 403 established the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) alternative compliance payment, the revenues of which are added to the Renewable Resource Fund. L.D. 36 expanded funding eligibility to additional types of organizations and transferred management of the fund from the State Planning Office to the PUC. In 2009, the Act Regarding Maine's Energy Future (Public Law 372) established a new entity, the Efficiency Maine Trust, which became responsible for Maine's energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. All of the funds in the Renewable Energy Fund were transferred to the Efficiency Maine Trust in July 2010.