67th Montana Legislative Session: Preview and Getting Involved

67th Montana Legislative Session: Preview and Getting Involved

Policy & Advocacy
This legislative session will be unlike any we have participated in recently. The makeup of the Legislature and Governor's Office has shifted, and COVID has created a new paradigm for public involvement. There's a lot of uncertainty about how the session will play out. Despite this uncertainty, MREA's advocacy will continue to be driven by our community's priorities and goals. MREA has always, and will always, advocate to: protect and defend the right of Montanans to produce their own energy, promote fair and affordable access to small-scale renewable energy, and oppose policies that attack renewable energy development that will harm consumers and our local, Montana-based industry. The Session has already started, and many of the more than 3,000 draft bills that we have sorted through still do not have language or…
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Federal ITC Extended for 2 Years

Federal ITC Extended for 2 Years

Education and Information, Industry & Technical, Policy & Advocacy
Some great energy-related news coming out of Congress! The spending bill – which was signed into law just yesterday – includes a two-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) at the current 26%, rather than decreasing yet again at the end of this year. The ITC has spurred huge amounts of private investment in renewable energy. This is a big win for renewables! The tax credit was originally 30% of the total installed system cost. The ITC was due to step down in 2021 to 22%. This was part of a planned phase out of the credit, which was negotiated several years ago when the credit was extended. Eventually, the residential ITC will expire (in 2024) and the commercial ITC will remain at 10% (as of 2024). It's important…
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Solar and Snow: To Brush or Not to Brush

Solar and Snow: To Brush or Not to Brush

Education and Information
It's late October in Montana and we're already seeing some early season snowfall. Some Montanans are enjoying the early wintry vistas, some are getting excited for ski season, and for owners of rooftop or ground-mounted solar systems they may be wondering: do I need to clear the snow off of my panels? To Brush or Not to Brush A thin layer of snow is unlikely to be a problem. In fact, research has shown that as the panels begin to collect sunlight they'll warm up and the snow will typically either burn off of slide off of the panels without any need to brush them. At this point, the snow will actually clean the panels, especially if it melts and slides off naturally. Like rain, this will actually end up…
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Committee Bill Will Improve Access to Tax Credits

Committee Bill Will Improve Access to Tax Credits

Policy & Advocacy
The Montana Legislative Interim Committees are wrapping up nearly 18 months of work researching issues, discussing draft legislation, and preparing for the next legislative session. This interim, MREA was monitoring the work of two committees – the Energy & Telecommunications Interim Committee and the Revenue Interim Committee. In this post, we focus on the work and outcomes of the Revenue Interim Committee. Capitol Building, Helena The Revenue Interim Committee generally does not address renewable energy issues. However, the Committee is conducting a multi-year review of all of Montana’s income tax credits, which includes Montana’s renewable energy tax credits. The Committee is tasked with researching each credit to decide whether to make any changes. The alternative energy systems credit is used by hundreds of Montanans every year to help pay for…
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Protecting Common Sense Installation Design at the PSC

Protecting Common Sense Installation Design at the PSC

Industry & Technical, Policy & Advocacy
Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (“SGIP”) are the technical documents used by the utility and by solar, wind, and other energy developers to guide how energy systems are interconnected to the utility grid. They cover everything from the application forms and paperwork that need to be filed, all the way down to the safety standards for the equipment used. It covers net metering customers, but also larger systems. Recently, the Montana Public Service Commission opened a docket related to these guiding documents that addressed the nuanced but important definition of a "premises", which impacts how renewable energy systems could be designed. MREA weighed in on this docket to ensure the definition does not restrict common sense installations. Read MREA's Full Comments on the Premises Definition How is premises defined in statute,…
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Delayed Action on Renewable Energy Tax Credits

Delayed Action on Renewable Energy Tax Credits

Policy & Advocacy
During its April 29th meeting, the Revenue Interim Committee of the Montana Legislature discussed the state's tax credit that supports small-scale renewable energy installations (like rooftop solar and small wind). This discussion is part of a multi-year, holistic review of all of Montana's income tax credits as directed by House Bill 723 from the 2019 Legislative Session. The Committee will review a handful of income tax credits each interim over the next several years. The Committee is tasked with looking at each credit and deciding whether to amend, repeal, or do nothing and leave the credit as-is. Despite a robust discussion about the credit, the committee delayed action until its next meeting. The Alternative Energy Systems Tax credit was the credit up for discussion, which allows Montanans up to $500 per taxpayer…
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Takeaways from the 2019 National Solar Jobs Census (Part 2)

Takeaways from the 2019 National Solar Jobs Census (Part 2)

Industry & Technical
It's become an annual tradition here at MREA to celebrate the release of The Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census report, which was released earlier this year. Read on for MREA's analysis of the 2019 Census! This is Part 2 of a 2 part series. Part 1 focused on National Trends. Part 2 focuses on specific takeaways for Montana. Quick Look: Montana Industry Metrics 2019 Solar Jobs: 308 Solar businesses: 42 Year to Year % Growth in Solar Jobs: 12.7% 2019 Solar Jobs Rank by State: 49 2019 Solar Jobs per Capita Rank by State: 43 2019 Solar Companies Rank by State: 42 [caption id="attachment_2723" align="aligncenter" width="427"] Source: The Solar Foundation[/caption] The State of Solar in Montana Montana's solar industry continued its multi-year trend of growth, showing an increase of…
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Net Metering: So, what happens now?

Net Metering: So, what happens now?

Education and Information, Policy & Advocacy
Last Thanksgiving, distributed generation consumers and advocates had something to truly give thanks for: a unanimous (5-0) decision by the Montana Public Service Commission (MPSC) adopting MREA/Vote Solar's proposal to maintain net energy metering ("net metering", "NEM") rates and rate structures. The MPSC rejected a utility proposal that would have made it impossible for net metering customers installing rooftop solar and small wind, for example, to save money on their energy bills. The ruling was a huge win, but the question remains: so, what happens now? In short: nothing - and that's a great thing! We explore the more detailed answer to that question below. Read on for a look at net metering and what to expect in the coming months and years. Before we begin... A clarifying reminder that net…
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Takeaways from the 2019 National Solar Jobs Census (Part 1)

Takeaways from the 2019 National Solar Jobs Census (Part 1)

Industry & Technical
It's become an annual tradition here at MREA to celebrate the release of The Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census report, which came out just this week. How do we celebrate? We top off our coffee, read through the Report, and do a happy dance celebrating the growth solar is seeing around the country. Read on for MREA's analysis of the 2019 Census! This is Part 1 of a 2 part series. Part 1 focuses on national trends from the Census. Part 2, which will be published after The Solar Foundation releases their state-specific data in March, will focus on takeaways and trends specifically for Montana.  15 Facts from the National Solar Jobs Census 1. Solar is a national industry: though market sizes vary considerably, the solar industry has a presence…
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Show Me the Money: Financing and Incentive Updates and Changes in 2020

Show Me the Money: Financing and Incentive Updates and Changes in 2020

Education and Information, Special Programs
As the cost of renewable energy continues to drop, more Montanans are choosing to install distributed energy systems like rooftop solar and small wind. When considering an installation, there are important financing and incentive options to keep in mind. Some of these have gone through some changes - or nearly so - in the past year. In this blog post, we highlight three updates and changes to important financing and incentives that Montanans should be aware of as you look to install small solar and wind systems at your home, business, farm or ranch in 2020 and beyond. Net metering – Update: no changes! On November 25th, 2019 the Montana Public Service Commission (MPSC) ruled in favor of MREA and Vote Solar, preserving rooftop solar and unanimously rejecting Northwestern Energy's…
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