ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Hard Road To A New Solar Paradigm In Montana
Big Sky solar: On the long, hard road to net metering reform in Montana; Years of legislative wrangling have yielded little, but recent closed-door policy talks could point a way forward
Herman K. Trabish, October 13, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The Montana settlement, like many the New Energy industries and utilities have made in recent months, is partial and tentative but represents work in the right direction.
After more than a year of contentious discussions between legislators, utility leaders and the solar industry, Montana lawmakers formed a special legislative committee — the Energy and Technology Interim Committee (ETIC) — to address how to encourage distributed solar growth without putting stress on the utility system or shifting costs to the rest of the customer base. In forming the ETIC, legislative leaders asked Northwestern Energy (NWE) and Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA) to work together. When they submitted widely divergent cost-benefit analyses of net metering in Montana, the ETIC asked the MPSC staff, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and the Legislative Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) to review the analyses.
The ETIC process five proposed bills. Amid the political turmoil, NWE CEO Bob Rowe decided to take the initiative. The Community Sustainable Energy Workshops he convened were not to deal with net metering specifically, but to engage stakeholders. As the group worked on designs for pilot projects Rowe said he would take on, the workshops turned into an opportunity for the renewables advocates to learn more about utility concerns and for the utility to learn those of renewables advocates. None of the participants interviewed by Utility Dive fully endorsed the idea that the workshops specifically advanced the ETIC process. But each said that collaboration had contributed to understanding between the utility and renewables advocates… click here for more
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