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PSC to rule on rates for solar customers

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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 meeting will be live streamed on the PSC's website. The stream is available at this link.

A Harvest Solar project in Montana’s Paradise Valley
Photo credit: Harvest Solar

The PSC staff have released their memo on the unresolved issues, including net metering. The net metering discussion are on pages 8 through 30. The staff are recommending:

  • Create a new rate class for net metering customers that has the same rates as the overall residential class (no demand charges)
  • Implement an inflow/outflow rate structure
  • Value outflow energy at $0.063/kWh
  • On-site/behind the meter consumption will still be valued at the full retail rate
  • Legacy status (maintaining the current rates) will be granted to customers who receive approval of their interconnection application by NWE, which must happen before the final order is issued

The memo is non-binding. It will be up to the Commissioners to decide what to do on Monday. MREA's position remains that the net metering program provides fair compensation for distributed generation customers and that no changes are needed. As we demonstrated in the docket, when you conduct a fair and complete analysis of the benefits and costs of net metering you see that rooftop solar is a net benefit to other customers. Making changes now – when NEM customers make up less than 1% of NWE's customer base – is premature and will only cause harm to small businesses and to Montanans.

You can catch up on the case and read more on MREA's General Rate Case webpage.