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Legislative interim study of net metering gets underway

The members of Montana’s Energy and Telecommunication Interim Committee (ETIC) met on June 5 to establish their work plan over the coming eighteen months. The legislative interim committee, which is composed of four Republicans and four Democrats, selected a study of net metering as one of their primary focus areas.

The study is guided by SJ 12, a resolution that passed the 2015 Legislature calling for a study of net metering. Within the broad scope of SJ 12, a cost/benefit analysis of net metering will receive the most attention of the committee, followed by a review of safety regulations for net metering systems, an examination of Montana incentives for net metering and a report of the economic impacts of the industry.

Ben Brouwer, MREA’s Policy Director, provided guidance to ETIC at their June meeting, suggesting the inclusion of additional benefits from net metering in ETIC’s analysis. MREA’s suggestions were favorably received by the committee and included in a questionnaire that will be sent to Montana’s investor owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives. A separate questionnaire has been provided to MREA. The responses and data generated by these questionnaires before the September 11 ETIC meeting will provide a starting point for the committee’s analysis of Montana’s existing net metering policy and potential expansions.

Public Service Commission role
At the June 5 ETIC meeting, the Administrator of the Montana PSC’s Regulatory Division offered staff assistance to the committee. It is not likely that the PSC would open a formal rate making docket on net metering without a request from the Legislature.

What’s next?
At their September meeting, members of ETIC will decide what to do with the data and input provided to them by MREA, the utilities and other stakeholders. They may request additional data to further inform their analysis or they may call on PSC staff and/or other state agency staff for analytical assistance. The timeline beyond ETIC’s September meeting has not been established.

The outcome of this study process is far from certain. ETIC does not have authority to pass legislation but they do have the ability to draft bills that could be introduced in Montana’s next Legislative Session beginning January 2017. Whether the committee recommends legislative action to roll back Montana’s net metering policy, expand it, or just leave it as-is, hinges on the outcome of the study and the active participation of MREA staff and members.

MREA is in the process of developing detailed responses to ETIC’s questionnaire on net metering. Don’t hesitate to contact Ben if you have input or questions on the process, and please stay tuned for opportunities to make your voice heard in this important discussion.

Additional Resources
Energy and Telecommunication Interim Committee website
Net metering questionnaires

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