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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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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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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Montana PSC Rejects Changes to Net Metering In Win for Montanans, Local Jobs, and Clean Energy

Montana PSC Rejects Changes to Net Metering In Win for Montanans, Local Jobs, and Clean Energy

Policy & Advocacy
Victory! NorthWestern Energy’s anti-solar proposal rejected by unanimous vote HELENA, MT – In a vote of 5-0, the Montana Public Service Commission supported clean energy jobs and the right of Montanans to harness clean electricity from their own solar panels. The Commission rejected NorthWestern Energy’s proposal to end net metering, implement a separate rate class, and impose punitive demand charge rates for rooftop solar customers. That proposal would have penalized Montana families who invest in rooftop solar and sent solar jobs to other states. Instead, the Commission preserved net metering that allows current and future solar customers to offset their electricity purchases by receiving credit when they send clean energy back to the grid. NorthWestern Energy is by and far Montana’s largest electric utility. “Montanans value self-reliance and resilience, two important…
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PSC to rule on rates for solar customers

PSC to rule on rates for solar customers

Policy & Advocacy
The Public Service Commission will be holding a work session at their offices in Helena on Monday, November 25th at noon to discuss the remaining unresolved issues in the rate case. At this meeting, they will be discussing net metering, among other issues like decoupling and demand-side management programs, and will be making oral rulings on these issues. As a reminder, the oral rulings are different than the final order. The final order is expected to come out later in December. The date that the final order is issued is the earliest that any changes could go into place. So, we will know their decision on these issues before they issue the final order. The meeting will begin with public comment and then the PSC will begin their discussions. The…
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Interconnection Docket closes, more to come

Interconnection Docket closes, more to come

Industry & Technical, Policy & Advocacy
Note: This is not NWE's proposal to change their net metering program rates. MREA has a separate webpage with updates on the rate case.  In August, MREA concluded its work on a regulatory docket which updated Northwestern Energy's interconnection agreements and procedures for small generators (including net metered systems). Interconnection procedures are the technical requirements and documents that are used when a generating system (like solar or wind) wants to connect to the grid. It includes everything from detailing the safety and technical standards required for the equipment, to the application forms you need to fill out and file with the utility. These are important issues, directly affecting how installers may design systems and how they plan their workflow with their customers. MREA saw this as a critical docket to…
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2019 Legislative Session Wrap

2019 Legislative Session Wrap

Policy & Advocacy
As of Thursday afternoon renewable energy advocates can take a deep breath and cheers to victory. The 2019 Legislative Session has come to a close, and advocates can celebrate their successes in protecting key energy policies from yet another session full of attacks. The short story? Nothing good passed, but neither did anything bad. And that's a win. Good bills die in the Senate - again. For yet another session, the Senate was predictably unfriendly to good renewable energy policies. A number of bills, such as HB22 and HB78, seemed to be well on their way to the Governor's desk. After garnering bipartisan support in the house, both bills made their way to the Senate. As we have seen for the past few sessions, anti-renewable senators stopped them dead in…
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