The group that staged a protest at Central Maine Power Co.’s headquarters in Augusta this week continues to hope its efforts will sway the utility company’s position on an upcoming solar bill.

The Monday protest, which was organized by Quaker meetings, was held to demonstrate opposition to what protesters claimed were CMP’s lobbying efforts against solar power and net metering, the means by which producers of solar power are credited by the power company for electricity they send into the grid.

The protest resulted in four people willfully getting arrested by Augusta police for trespassing. They were standing at the locked doors of the company’s lobby after they were told they were not allowed in the building. They had been allowed to register their protest in the parking lot, until police told them to leave. After the protest, CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice said it was company policy not to permit anyone, even customers, inside the secure facility on Edison Drive.

Nathan Broaddus, a member of Portland Friends Meeting and spokesperson for the ad hoc committee that organized the protest, said the four protesters who were arrested for criminal trespassing — Robert Levin, Don May, Michael White and Anna Barnett — were released later the same day. Each had to post bail of $260, the maximum for a criminal trespassing charge. He said that was more than the group’s lawyers had expected, and that their hearings are likely to be held in March.

A news release from the group called the event “the first-of-its-kind Solar Counterlobby” that was meant to “literally and figuratively shine a light on CMP’s lobbying efforts to undermine solar power in Maine.”

Broaddus said the protest clearly struck a nerve with CMP on both the day it happened and the days after.

“I’ve heard there’s quite a lot of folks who have taken notice and are calling CMP and voicing their frustration and disappointment with the utility for lobbying on their solar bill,” he said.

The bill, L.D. 1686, is the latest before the Legislature that aims to maintain net metering, the billing mechanism that credits solar system owners for the electricity they put into the grid for up to 15 years after they apply for a net billing arrangement. Under new rules proposed by the Public Utilities Commission, those net metering values were set to decrease, first to a 90 percent credit, then to an 80 percent credit, and so on.

After the protest, Rice said CMP remains committed to solar energy, but said net metering was a “decades old” practice that was put in place originally to jump-start solar technology in Maine. She said the practice unfairly compensates only those who can afford to have solar arrays installed in the first place.

The protest began around noon, and an Augusta police officer was assigned to the event. Protesters were told by CMP security that they were not allowed in the building, as members of the public are not allowed in. After singing and chanting in the parking lot for nearly an hour, the group walked to the front doors to continue their demonstration. More police were called, and everyone at the scene was told to leave the area or else they would be arrested.

The group doesn’t have any more protests or demonstrations planned right now, Broaddus said, but the Monday protest was organized in only 10 days, so another could come together quickly if they choose to organize it.

“We’re taking a couple of days to step back and reassess,” Broaddus said.

He said he doesn’t anticipate going back to CMP’s headquarters in Augusta, as the company has been “unwilling” to have a conversation with the group; but he said they are hopeful that will change as the group continues to put pressure on the company.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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