Legislative Half-time Report: Net metering

Policy & Advocacy
The past 8 weeks have been spent working hard to defend and promote net metering policy here in Montana. A huge thank you to all the MREA members and many others who called, sent emails, came to Helena to testify, and attended a thrilling rally. Even with all of this overwhelming support for positive action, it is clear the influences working against net metering continue to prove themselves too challenging to overcome. However, there is still important work to be done in the remaining months of the session. The bills that we brought forward to expand net metering have all died. Still, please reach out to your Senators and Representatives who voted to support those bills and thank them for their vote. It is important for them to know that…
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Net metering study wraps-up with two important wins

Policy & Advocacy
At the culmination of a 15-month study of net metering, the Montana Legislature’s Energy & Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC) advanced two MREA priorities that will protect and expand rooftop solar. Both bills passed with bipartisan support and will be sent to the full Legislature for consideration in January 2017. ETIC’s study of net metering policies and economic impacts was initiated by the 2015 Legislature after a series of bills to expand net metering, and one bill to significantly roll back the statute, were either withdrawn or died in committee votes. The study touched on a range of topics including methodologies to weigh the costs and benefits of net metering, economic impacts of the solar industry in Montana, and interconnection and safety standards. Study findings The bipartisan committee reached a series…
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Legislature considers changes to Net Metering

Policy & Advocacy
The Montana Legislature’s Energy & Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC) is about to wrap up a 16-month study of Montana’s net metering law. Net metering has already driven millions of dollars of private investment in rooftop solar arrays and small scale wind turbines by giving Montana homeowners and businesses the option to generate their own energy, and the assurance that they’ll receive full, fair credit for extra energy they provide to their utility. As the study finishes up, ETIC is considering a package of draft legislation that includes a bill to increase the 50 kilowatt net metering system cap to 250 kilowatts for universities, National Guard facilities, local governments, churches and other tax exempt properties. Another bill would trigger a detailed cost/benefit analysis of net metering when output from net metering…
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Net metering study: economic impacts and cost shift analysis

Policy & Advocacy
At the January 15 meeting of the Legislature’s Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC), legislators continued to dig into Montana’s net metering statute, but stopped short of proposing changes to the law. Ben Brouwer, MREA’s Policy Director, and Orion Thornton, partner in Onsite Energy and MREA Vice President, both were invited by the committee to present information about the economic impact of the solar industry in Montana (download Ben’s presentation here). Legislative staff also presented a summary of the economic impacts of net metering. The staff report shared the experiences and perspectives of four Montana based solar installation businesses: Solar Plexus, Sundance Solar, Jordan Solar and Bozeman Green Build. In advance of the January ETIC meeting, three state agencies analyzed the available data on net metering in Montana and concluded…
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Victory! Montana-Dakota Utilities drops contested solar fee

Policy & Advocacy
HELENA—Homeowners in eastern Montana will no longer face discriminatory fees if they choose to install solar after a Montana utility withdrew its plans earlier this week to levy an extra charge on customers with rooftop solar arrays or small wind generators. Montana-Dakota Utilities (MDU), which serves approximately 25,000 electric customers in eastern Montana, filed a proposal at the Montana Public Service Commission in July to raise rates 21 percent for all customers. The rate case had included an additional fee, called a demand charge, for residential solar customers. In a settlement filed on Thursday, MDU withdrew the charge. “The people won here today,” said Jean and Floyd Dahlman, Rosebud County ranchers and long-time MDU customers. “This settlement proves that MDU’s proposed fee on customers who generate their own power was,…
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Speak up on Regional Power Plan

Policy & Advocacy
The Northwest Power and Conservation Council has released a draft 20-year energy plan that will guide energy resource decisions in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. It’s crucially important that the Council, which is composed of two members from each of these four states, supports a final plan that prioritizes energy efficiency and renewable energy. Distributed solar resources can play an important role in serving our region’s electricity needs, but it’s important for the Council to hear from you. Every five years the Council updates its long-range energy plan guiding the deployment of electricity resources in the Bonneville Power Administration service territory, which includes NorthWestern Energy and western Montana electric cooperatives. The Draft 7th Power Plan is available for public comment until December 18th. The final plan will be released in…
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Committee weighs the benefits and costs of net metering law

Policy & Advocacy
At the September meeting of the Montana Legislature’s Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee (ETIC), MREA’s Policy Director, Ben Brouwer, presented a preliminary evaluation of the economic impact from net metering on NorthWestern Energy ratepayers and the state’s economy. The message to Legislators from MREA was clear: the economic benefit of net metering far outweighs the costs. The Committee’s study of net metering, triggered by the passage of Senate Joint Resolution 12 in the 2015 Legislature, has entered the data gathering phase. At the committee’s request, electric utilities, the electrical workers’ union and renewable energy industry groups submitted responses on September 1 to a series of questions pertaining to net metering costs, benefits, safety, interconnection standards, reliability, etc. You can download MREA’s full response here. For an updated version of MREA’s…
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Clean Power Plan: Governor Bullock needs to hear from you

Policy & Advocacy
In August the Environmental Protection Agency released the Clean Power Plan, a responsible step to fight climate change. The plan sets Montana on a path to cut carbon pollution from power plants while re-investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy. This is a path that will protect our clean air and key industries while making room for new jobs in the clean energy sector. But to take full advantage of this opportunity, we need Governor Bullock’s leadership. Let him know that you support a Montana solution to the Clean Power Plan that puts efficiency and renewable energy first. Governor Bullock has a strong record on clean energy. He has repeatedly blocked attempts to roll back Montana’s energy conservation tax credits and renewable energy standard and he’s made it clear that…
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Take Action: Stop Montana Dakota Utilities’ Attack on Solar

Policy & Advocacy
In a recent filing before the Public Service Commission, Montana Dakota Utilities proposed a 21% rate increase for their customers. On top of the double-digit rate hike, the utility wants to penalize homeowners who generate their own solar power by adding a new surcharge for net metering customers. MDU hasn’t disclosed how much the solar surcharge will impact an average solar customer, but there’s no question that the fee will make it more difficult for homeowners to control their own power bills with a rooftop solar array. MDU is taking energy choices away from their customers. All of this is especially alarming given that a legislative committee has just begun a study of net metering that MDU’s lobbyist supported in the Legislature. By taking their proposal for new solar fees…
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Legislative interim study of net metering gets underway

Policy & Advocacy
The members of Montana’s Energy and Telecommunication Interim Committee (ETIC) met on June 5 to establish their work plan over the coming eighteen months. The legislative interim committee, which is composed of four Republicans and four Democrats, selected a study of net metering as one of their primary focus areas. The study is guided by SJ 12, a resolution that passed the 2015 Legislature calling for a study of net metering. Within the broad scope of SJ 12, a cost/benefit analysis of net metering will receive the most attention of the committee, followed by a review of safety regulations for net metering systems, an examination of Montana incentives for net metering and a report of the economic impacts of the industry. Ben Brouwer, MREA’s Policy Director, provided guidance to ETIC…
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