67th Montana Legislature: Mid-Session Review

67th Montana Legislature: Mid-Session Review

Policy & Advocacy
After a relatively slow start to the first few weeks of the 67th Legislative Session, the last few weeks of February were a whirlwind as legislators worked to get bills introduced and heard in committees before the Transmittal Deadline on March 3rd. Other than revenue bills (and a few other exceptions), bills that are not voted out of committee and across to the other chamber before the Transmittal Deadline die and are not allowed to move forward. Discussions on energy issues, in particular, ramped up over the last few weeks. Below we share some of our insights from inside the hallways of the Capitol, where our executive director has been working hard to defend Montana's renewable energy policies. The biggest story for MREA in the first half of the session was House Bill…
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Anti-Solar Bill Will Effectively Destroy Industry, Cost Montana Jobs

Anti-Solar Bill Will Effectively Destroy Industry, Cost Montana Jobs

Policy & Advocacy
Update 2/19: Huge Win for Rooftop Solar! On Friday, Feb. 19th in the House Energy Committee, Rep. Brewster withdrew HB359 before it even had its hearing. Thank you to all of the Montanans who signed up to oppose the bill, submitted comments, and made phone calls. There were more than a thousand comments submitted in opposition to the bill! This loud and vocal opposition helped earn this huge victory for rooftop solar. Onward! House Bill 359 being introduced by Rep. Brewster (R, Billings) will effectively destroy Montana’s solar industry and cost the state hundreds of well-paying jobs provided by local businesses across the state. The issue at hand is net metering, which is a billing mechanism that allows Montanans who invested in rooftop solar and small wind systems to get credits…
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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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