Janet Mills is scheduled to deliver her state of the budget address via a live video stream on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Maine’s energy regulator said it will investigate the problems Central Maine Power Co. is having connecting its grid to solar projects shortly after Gov. Janet Mills asked for one on Monday.

The Democratic governor also asked commission Chair Phil Bartlett to start a broader review to ensure that Maine’s electric utilities have systems and planning in place to handle the growth of renewables and distributed energy. The commission responded within hours, saying it expects to start a formal proceeding in the next few weeks.

The move comes after CMP told solar project developers last week that they might need to pay more to connect to the grid, which could delay projects. Mills told Bartlett that she read with dismay reports that more than 100 CMP substations may require costly and unexpected modifications to interconnect hundreds of megawatts of new solar projects across the state.

“It is especially concerning that some of these problems relate to facilities that are already built and ready to operate,” the governor wrote, adding that it is regrettable that CMP apparently did not anticipate these issues when it entered into the interconnection agreements.

A commission spokesperson said Bartlett “believes that along with the technical considerations, it is important to consider the timeline with respect to when CMP became aware of the problem, how earlier studies were conducted and how projects are impacted.”

CMP will cooperate with any commission inquiry, said spokesperson Catharine Hartnett. She said more than 600 projects have asked to connect to CMP’s system. That 2,000 megawatts of new power exceeds the utility’s current peak load demand of 1,700 megawatts, she said.

“Our first priority is to ensure safety and reliability as we work to transform a very traditional system to accommodate a tremendous amount of new power,” she said, and at a reasonable cost.