Net metering study: economic impacts and cost shift analysis

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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 that there isn’t sufficient information to determine whether the rate structure and implementation of net metering by NorthWestern Energy shifts costs to other utility customers. For more details, review the memos prepared by Public Service Commission, Consumer Counsel and Department of Environmental Quality.

ETIC meets again in March, May, July and September. The committee is expected to conclude its study and possible draft legislation by July. In an op-ed published in newspapers across the state prior to the January 15 ETIC meeting, Ben called on the committee to use the following principles to guide any legislation the committee might endorse: 1) give consumers options, 2) remove arbitrary barriers, and 3) plan for the long term.

MREA will continue to closely monitor and participate in ETIC’s study of net metering. Stay tuned for more updates.