Owners of rooftop solar systems in Montana came out in support of a bill that would grandfather net metering rates for solar customers in the state, the Billings Gazette reports.
The grandfathering bill is also largely supported by the local utility, NorthWestern Energy.
- But NorthWestern Energy is opposing second bill, which would raise the net metering cap for government entities.
Discussions over net metering have been under way for more than a year in Montana. Lawmakers in the state even 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.
The grandfathering bill, HB 52, emerged from the ETIC this week with unanimous support, the news outlet noted.Changing the current law overnight “would impact homeowners who have invested thousands” in rooftop solar, Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, the Republican sponsor of the bill told The Billings Gazette.
A second bill did not have such as easy time. HB 34, also sponsored by Zolnikov, would increase the net metering cap to 250 kW from 50 kW for government buildings, including cities, counties, school districts, state agencies, universities, tribal governments and federal governments.
Supporters say the bill it would allow for economies of scale, that is, large projects could generate more energy while paying roughly the same installation costs as smaller projects.But opponents, such as NorthWestern and Montana-Dakota Utilities argue that expanding the scale of net metering would shift costs on to non-solar customers.
Net metering has long been a contentious subject in Montana. In the 2015 legislative session, NorthWestern blocked bills aimed at strengthening the policy, while a utility-supported effort to undermine it was blocked by solar advocates, according to Diana Maneta, the executive director of the Montana Renewable Energy Association.