Montana net metering customers are overpaid, new study says
- A cost-benefit analysis in Montana pegs the value of solar energy sent back to the grid at about $0.04/kWh, significantly less than what net metering customers are paid, according to The Missoulian.
- NorthWestern Energy currently pays customers about $0.12/kWh for energy sent back to the grid, but the issue is expected to be among those raised in a rate proceeding later this year.
- Montana is gearing up to reconsider its net metering rates, and the third-party assessment of its costs and benefits was a requirement set out by legislators last year.
A new cost-benefit analysis concludes utilities could be paying significantly more for rooftop solar than it is worth, setting up a debate later this year when state regulators begin considering a rate filing from NorthWestern Energy.
The Billings Gazette reports the solar industry is gearing up for the battle, which would echo similar debates in other states.
The debate in Montana has gone on for years, culminating in a plea from lawmakers last year for a third-party study of net metering's costs and benefits. Passed last year, H.B. 219 granted the state Public Service Commission the power to revise its net metering policies, but only if a cost-benefit study supported it.
In 2016, Montana lawmakers formed a special legislative committee, the Energy and Technology Interim Committee, 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.
Last year ,in the United States there were a record 249 solar policy actions debated at state commissions and legislatures — up 17% from 2016’s 212 actions and 30% from the 175 actions only two years ago, according to the 50 States of Solar annual policy review from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.
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