What is Community Solar?
Community solar, also known as Net Energy Billing (NEB), is designed to promote the expansion of solar production in Maine. Eligible solar projects receive credit for each kWh of electricity they generate. Utility customers can sign up with the owner of a solar project to receive a share of these credits generated by the project. The solar project can be located anywhere in the service territory of your utility (Central Maine Power or Versant Power’s Bangor Hydro District or Maine Public District).
How does it work?
Each credit you purchase from the solar provider offsets one kWh of electricity usage by the subscribing customer. Normal electricity bills include charges for delivery and supply based on usage; if your usage is offset by solar credits, you will receive a much smaller bill, likely with just the fixed and/or demand charges. You will receive a second bill from the solar company for the credits generated for you that month, usually 45-60 days after that month’s electric bill. You may see a higher bill from your solar company in the summer when more energy is being generated; you can use those extra credits to offset your bills in the winter, when less solar energy may be generated. Solar credits expire after one year.
Will I save more money with a competitive electricity supplier or a community solar offering? Or can I do both?
Because your usage is offset by solar credits, you would not receive much benefit from a competitive electricity supplier (also known as a CEP) as a solar customer. (CEPs charge a certain rate per kWh used in your home; your usage as a solar customer is likely to be zero or close to it.) As to which would save you more money, you will have to do your research and determine that for your own situation.
- Read your solar contract very carefully and make sure you understand the billing structure and terms.
- Check out the most recent supply rates.
Here’s a breakdown of the difference:
|Competitive Electricity Supply||Community Solar|
|What do I get from this company?||This is your electricity supply – shown on the last page of your electricity bill||Provides kWh credits on electricity bill. Applies credits only to kWh charges (not fixed or demand charges)|
|How do I pay my bill?||Typically paid through your monthly utility bill||Separate bill arrives 30-60 days after your monthly utility bill|
|Who enforces consumer protections?||Public Utilities Commission (800)452-4699||
Attorney General (800)436-2131
Public Utilities Commission (800)452-4699
Can I save twice as much by signing up with two solar companies?
No. There are currently no rules stating you can’t sign up with more than one solar company, but it doesn’t work like double coupons. Instead, you will likely end up overspending due to buying solar credits from two companies and getting more than you can use before they expire.
Why is my community solar bill larger than my utility bill would have been?
Community solar subscriptions are often designed to save 10-15% compared to the normal utility bill, over the course of the year. If you have purchased the right number of solar credits to offset your usage, over time, you should see a savings. However, many community solar companies charge for generation, as opposed to usage. Your normal utility bill is based on charging per kWh that you use in your home – the community solar company is charging based on the solar energy being generated. This means, in the summer when the solar farms are producing more, you may see higher community solar bills. If you receive more credits than you can use in a month, the extra credits will be banked to be used in months when less solar energy is generated. Solar credits expire after one year.
I changed my mind and don’t want to be a solar customer anymore. How do I cancel?
Call your solar company’s customer support line to cancel. Please note that you have the right to cancel your agreement, orally or in writing, until five days after you receive your first bill or invoice from the solar company and you will only be responsible for paying that first bill or invoice. If you are told that you will be responsible for additional fees or bills, contact our office for assistance. If you are past that date, many solar companies can take up to 90 days to cancel your account and you will be responsible for the bills in the meantime. Read your contract to understand your specific company’s policy on cancellation.
Learn more: Check out the Solar FAQ (PDF) we created based on the most common Community Solar questions received by the OPA, CMP and Versant.