- Lawmakers in Montana passed a bill aimed at expanding electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure in the state by authorizing utilities to sell electricity to third-party charging station operators.
- The state's largest utility, NorthWestern, said it supports the bill, which would determine that entities operating EV charging stations "are not public utilities."
- House Bill 456 passed the Montana Senate on a 30-19 vote last week and will now head to Gov. Steve Bullock, D, for his signature. The governor will also be considering HB 267, which would establish privacy provisions regarding advanced metering infrastructure and was also passed recently.
Montana lawmakers have approved a pair of energy bills this month designed to grow the state's clean energy resources, with the most recent aimed at developing more charging infrastructure for electrified transport.
A NorthWestern spokesperson said the utility has EV charging station pilot projects now and others in development in the state in cooperation with several government entities. In 2017, the utility announced a partnership with the Missoula Parking Commission to develop two stations in the city.
"This is an energy trend NorthWestern Energy supports," Jo Dee Black told Utility Dive in a statement. "We want to be part of the conversation and development as this market develops."
So far, the state is lagging in EVs. According to the web site EVAdoption.com, EVs in Monatana had a 0.47% market share last year — about half the median adoption rate and well behind states like California (7.84%), Washington (4.28%) and Colorado (2.61%).
The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC), which helped to craft the AMI legislation, said it was not involved in developing the electric vehicle bill. MEIC Clean Energy Director Brian Fadie said in an email that he initially "had some concerns about the language being too restrictive for third party charging companies."
However, Fadie said some third-party companies did review and discuss the measure before it passed with sponsor Rep. Chris Pope, D, and there were no amendments.
HB 456 determines that a public utility "may provide electric service to an electric vehicle charging station" under a rate approved by state regulators, and that "entities operating electric vehicle charging stations are not public utilities."
The bill also states that charges pertaining to fueling electric vehicles may "not be based on the cost of electricity."
"Any rate for providing electric service to an electric vehicle charging station must be designed by the [Montana Public Service Commission] to fully recover from the electric charging station customer the full cost of providing the service without subsidization from other customers or customer classes," the bill says.
The other clean energy bill passed recently aimed to address privacy issues which could hinder the rollout of smart meters in Monatana. NorthWestern installed automatic meter reading technology in the late 1990s, but so far does not have a plan to upgrade to more granular AMI.
If signed by Gov. Bullock, the new law would require state regulators to consider whether customers must be given the opportunity to opt out of having AMI installed.