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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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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2018 National Jobs Census Highlights

2018 National Jobs Census Highlights

Education and Information, Industry & Technical
In its 9th annual National Solar Jobs Census, The Solar Foundation presents a year in review for the solar industry, highlighting trends in workforce numbers, demographics, wage and salaries, and key factors affecting the industry. The Solar Foundation's website has a copy of the full report, as well as a summary infographic of key facts and figures. Below are some of the key highlights and takeaways from the report. Short term loss, long-term growth for solar jobs Nationally, solar jobs are down by 3.2% from 2017. This is due in large part to two factors. The first is the effects of the Section 201 tariffs placed on solar modules and cells causing uncertainty for utility-scale developers, where the tariffs hit the hardest. Utility-scale projects – which account for large job numbers –…
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Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 3

Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 3

Education and Information, Policy & Advocacy
In Part 1 of this series, we gave an overview of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC), including a brief history and a description of key elements of its role and structure. In Part 2, we focused on the PSC’s role in energy-related issues, and specifically on three important electricity related responsibilities: creating customer classes and setting rates; overseeing long-term planning processes; and setting contract terms for Qualifying Facilities. This third and final installment of this series will focus on how to engage with the PSC. We also discuss PSC rulemaking and contested case processes, using the cost-benefit study on distributed generation as an example. Involvement at the Public Service Commission There are a number of ways of engaging with the PSC, and the method and number of opportunities to…
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Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 2

Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 2

Education and Information, Policy & Advocacy
In Part 1 of this series, we gave an overview of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC), including a brief history and a description of key elements of its role and structure. In Part 2, we focus on the PSC’s role in energy related issues, and specifically on three important electricity related responsibilities: creating customer classes and setting rates; overseeing long-term planning processes; and setting contract terms for Qualifying Facilities. Creating Customer Classes and Setting Rates The PSC is charged with creating customer classes for investor owned utilities, and setting the electricity rates (i.e. prices) for those classes. Since utility customers use electricity and the grid differently, they may be grouped into different classes so they can be charged differently. Per Montana law, “Classifications may take into account the quantity…
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Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 1

Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 1

Education and Information, Policy & Advocacy
As of March 1, 2018, NorthWestern Energy has one month to submit its distributed generation (i.e. rooftop solar) cost-benefit analysis to Montana’s Public Service Commission (PSC). The analysis is the latest in an ongoing debate over net metering policy that most recently resulted in House Bill 219. HB 219 passed in the 2017 Legislature and mandated NorthWestern Energy to study the costs and benefits of distributed generation customers. Throughout this process, a number of questions have come up: why is the utility overseeing the study and not the PSC? What happens once the study is finished? How will this affect Montanan’s ability to go solar? Many of these questions circle back to the importance of understanding the Public Service Commission and its role. Many Montanans do not realize the scope…
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What do these solar tariffs mean?

Education and Information, Industry & Technical, Policy & Advocacy
Last week the President ordered 30% tariffs on imported solar cells and modules. These tariffs are nothing short of artificial price increases, leaving many in Montana to wonder how this will affect their ability to purchase solar. This will be a surmountable, albeit frustrating, speed bump on the road towards energy independence. ​The decision, touted as a way to bolster american manufacturing and create jobs, is projected instead to cost the american solar industry 23,000 jobs. Most of these will be in installation, which makes up the majority of the solar industry. In Montana, installation makes up approximately 80% of the solar industry. These are small businesses, hiring a local workforce, and providing well paying jobs. Already, the uncertainty over the tariffs has caused businesses to curtail expansion. The tariffs…
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