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 (up to $1,000 per household) if they install an alternative energy system at their home. This includes solar PV, solar thermal, wind, hydro, geothermal, and even certain pellet/wood stoves. The credit is used by hundreds and sometimes thousands of Montanas every year. This tax credit has come under attack in previous legislative sessions, but to date MREA and our members have been able to defend it against being repealed.
During the Committee's meeting, several Montanans spoke in favor of the tax credit. A speaker from Billings mentioned that they are considering installing solar on the home they just bought and are hoping to use the tax credit. They said that renewable energy is way to increase their energy independence and have a choice in where they get their energy - a choice we usually do not have in Montana. A speaker from Livingston mentioned they installed solar and used the credit to help them pay for the system. Solar energy is helping reduce their heating bills, which is important because their home has electric heating.
MREA was present to speak on the bill. Brad van Wert, MREA's Vice President, mentioned that this credit is helping Montanans make financial decisions that not only benefit them as a consumer, but the businesses that install solar and other renewable energy technologies. Brad noted that the solar industry represents tremendous economic opportunity, both in the near term and long term. Andrew Valainis, MREA's Executive Director, summarized MREA's formal comments (read those here), focusing on how the credit benefits Montanans across the state by providing economic and energy resilience.
Earlier in the meeting, the Committee members had a rigorous discussion of the Energy Conservation tax credit, and passed several motions to draft a bill for next session that would maintain the credit, increase the allowable credit amount, and make it refundable. The alternative energy tax credit also had a robust discussion and a good amount of questions for those who made public comment. However, the Committee decided to delay taking action until it's next meeting, which may not be until June. MREA will continue working with the Committee this summer to defend the credit. If you would like to help, please reach out to us!
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You can learn about this tax credit and more on our Financing & Incentives webpage.