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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Interconnection Docket closes, more to come

Interconnection Docket closes, more to come

Industry & Technical, Policy & Advocacy
Note: This is not NWE's proposal to change their net metering program rates. MREA has a separate webpage with updates on the rate case.  In August, MREA concluded its work on a regulatory docket which updated Northwestern Energy's interconnection agreements and procedures for small generators (including net metered systems). Interconnection procedures are the technical requirements and documents that are used when a generating system (like solar or wind) wants to connect to the grid. It includes everything from detailing the safety and technical standards required for the equipment, to the application forms you need to fill out and file with the utility. These are important issues, directly affecting how installers may design systems and how they plan their workflow with their customers. MREA saw this as a critical docket to…
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2019 Legislative Session Wrap

2019 Legislative Session Wrap

Policy & Advocacy
As of Thursday afternoon renewable energy advocates can take a deep breath and cheers to victory. The 2019 Legislative Session has come to a close, and advocates can celebrate their successes in protecting key energy policies from yet another session full of attacks. The short story? Nothing good passed, but neither did anything bad. And that's a win. Good bills die in the Senate - again. For yet another session, the Senate was predictably unfriendly to good renewable energy policies. A number of bills, such as HB22 and HB78, seemed to be well on their way to the Governor's desk. After garnering bipartisan support in the house, both bills made their way to the Senate. As we have seen for the past few sessions, anti-renewable senators stopped them dead in…
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2019 Legislative Session Half-time Report

2019 Legislative Session Half-time Report

Policy & Advocacy
The Montana House and Senate are officially in recess while they take a few days off for the "transmittal break". This means we are half-way through the legislative session, which will pick back up in earnest the week of March 11th . In the first half of the session we saw a number of bills addressing large scale renewable development, including qualifying facilities ("QFs"), and utility supply planning processes. These issues have come up in previous sessions and were discussed during the last interim session as well. In addition, legislators are discussing new trends in the energy space, like storage and electric vehicles. It is exciting to see our elected officials taking interest in these policies, but remains to be seen what traction some of the positive renewable energy bills…
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2019 Legislative Session Preview

2019 Legislative Session Preview

Policy & Advocacy
The 66th Montana Legislature was called into session last week and is currently scheduled to run until May 1st. MREA will be there to continually promote and support good renewable energy legislation while defending against attacks on key policies like net metering, renewable energy tax incentives, and more. MREA’s work is always strengthened by our member base, so please engage with our citizen advocacy efforts throughout the session and gain access to our action alerts by becoming a MREA member. As a member, you can also get regular updates on the legislative session and other solar industry news by signing up for our e-newsletter. There is a lot of uncertainty around the 2019 legislative landscape. Many bills still have generic names, do not have draft text available to read, and/or…
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Reflections from the Unknown Energy Battleground Tour

Reflections from the Unknown Energy Battleground Tour

Policy & Advocacy
The following is a guest blog post by Caitlin Piserchia, Conservation Fellow with Forward Montana.  The Montana Public Service Commission, a quasi-judicial regulatory body seemingly tucked away in a drafty building in Helena, has an almost unbearably boring name but a incredibly large influence over Montana’s energy future. In early October, MREA and Forward Montana partnered on a statewide tour to bring the Public Service Commission and their responsibilities into the public eye. After two weeks on the road as part of the Unknown Energy Battleground Tour, I came away with three major lessons: the Public Service Commission makes incredibly consequential decisions on a regular basis, they are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to renewable energy development in Montana, and many Montanans don’t know how to influence their…
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Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 3

Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 3

Education and Information, Policy & Advocacy
In Part 1 of this series, we gave an overview of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC), including a brief history and a description of key elements of its role and structure. In Part 2, we focused on the PSC’s role in energy-related issues, and specifically on three important electricity related responsibilities: creating customer classes and setting rates; overseeing long-term planning processes; and setting contract terms for Qualifying Facilities. This third and final installment of this series will focus on how to engage with the PSC. We also discuss PSC rulemaking and contested case processes, using the cost-benefit study on distributed generation as an example. Involvement at the Public Service Commission There are a number of ways of engaging with the PSC, and the method and number of opportunities to…
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Benefit-Cost Study of Distributed Generation Leaves Questions Unanswered

Benefit-Cost Study of Distributed Generation Leaves Questions Unanswered

Policy & Advocacy
In April, the cost-benefit analysis of distributed generation (i.e. rooftop solar) initiated by House Bill 219 was submitted by NorthWestern Energy to the Public Service Commission. The report is now public and is required to be included in the next electric rate case, which is expected to begin in September. Staff at MREA have reviewed the study. First, no work papers, data spreadsheets, or any other supporting materials were included with the report. This makes it incredibly difficult to verify the report’s claims. This lack of transparency is concerning, especially considering the ultimate goal of this report was to bring clarity to questions on rooftop solar, not create further confusion or suspicion. Without the ability to verify the claims made in the study, they cannot be taken as fact. Second,…
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Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 2

Understanding the Public Service Commission: Part 2

Education and Information, Policy & Advocacy
In Part 1 of this series, we gave an overview of the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC), including a brief history and a description of key elements of its role and structure. In Part 2, we focus on the PSC’s role in energy related issues, and specifically on three important electricity related responsibilities: creating customer classes and setting rates; overseeing long-term planning processes; and setting contract terms for Qualifying Facilities. Creating Customer Classes and Setting Rates The PSC is charged with creating customer classes for investor owned utilities, and setting the electricity rates (i.e. prices) for those classes. Since utility customers use electricity and the grid differently, they may be grouped into different classes so they can be charged differently. Per Montana law, “Classifications may take into account the quantity…
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