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Page last updated 12/10/16

The fall 2016 amendments address the following concern some had about I-180:

Pre- 2005 hydro facilities cannot be counted in the future if the Renewable Portfolio Standard is increased above 80% until the amount of the increased RPS is met with renewables installed after 2005. I-180  previously allowed pre-2005 hydroelectric facilities to be counted in meeting renewable energy standards only after NorthWestern Energy had cut its CO2 emissions in half by 2025–5 years before that 50% cut would be required by America’s Clean Power Plan. MDU was also required to meet an 80% standard gradually by 2050. No other plan for Montana required as much renewable electricity as soon. Nevertheless MEIC objected contending that counting hydro set a bad precedent. Our disagreement on that is discussed here and here . Hopefully, this amendment will address MEIC’s concern satisfactorily.

Originally, I-180 was drafted as it was because in 2025 the new, renewable capacity plus the legacy hydro would have met the 80% Renewable Portfolio Standard for NorthWestern. To prohibit NorthWestern’s counting of the hydro at that point would have produced an unintended consequence where consumers could not benefit from the massive amounts incurred when the dams were repurchased with MEIC’s approval.  In addition, I-180 was drafted so that MDU would still be required to continue progress toward the 80% goal. In order to treat all utilities equally to avoid constitutional challenges, it was necessary to craft I-180 to allow use of pre-2005 hydro in meeting the goal if a utility had enough hydro capability at some future point to meet the ultimate 80% goal. The amendment to address future allowance of hydro in meeting RPS goals is found in section 3 and amends 69-3-2004, paragraph 4(a) by adding a new subsection (ii) to read:

(ii) If at any time in the future a public utility or competitive electricity supplier’s retail sales of electrical energy in Montana from eligible renewable resources is required to be more than the 80% specified in 69-3-2004(3)(a)(iv), in accordance with subsection (7)(d) as part of compliance with this section, a public utility or competitive electricity supplier may only count as an eligible renewable resource a hydroelectric facility not otherwise an eligible renewable resource under 69-3-2003(10)(d) if the annual output of electricity by all hydroelectric facilities owned by the utility or competitive electricity supplier, plus the annual output of electricity required for the public utility or competitive electricity supplier to meet the requirements of 69-3-2004(2) and (3)(a)(iv), is equal to or more than the highest percentage of increase above 80% of the annual sales of electricity for the public utility or competitive electricity supplier required by the future increase.

Support for distributed generation from power on residential and business property continues to be strengthened by the amendments. One reintroduces the concept that monopolies ought not to be the only participants in the clean energy transition. Without damaging the status of utility owned renewable projects like the solar farm in Bozeman, it in effect restores the original language in the RPS laws that was changed by utility lobbyists to freeze out community and smaller renewable energy projects. That amendment is found in section 2 which amends 69-3-2003(4) to read:

(4) “Community renewable energy project” means an eligible renewable resource that:

… (b) is a project installed prior to the effective date of this law and owned by a public utility and has less than or equal to 25 megawatts in total calculated nameplate capacity;

The amendment to the definition of the “community renewable energy project” also increased the 3 MW size limit for residential and business projects to equal that 25 MW limit utility lobbyists got enacted for themselves. It reads:

(c) is interconnected on the customer side of the meter, is located on property owned by the same person who owns the eligible renewable resource, and is less than or equal to 3 25 megawatts in total calculated nameplate capacity; or

(d) is interconnected on the customer side of the meter, is leased to a person owning property in Montana, is located on property owned by the lessee pursuant to a lease-purchase agreement that meets the requirements of subsection (11), and is less than or equal to 3 25 megawatts in total calculated nameplate capacity.

The amendments also clarify existing language  that Ben Brouwer thought was unclear. They make certain that utilities are allowed to purchase energy and renewable energy credits or either RECs or energy separately from small producers. This was the original intent of I-180 to allow what happens in California, Colorado, and elsewhere to incentivize more participation in the clean energy revolution by non-monopolies. It has been strengthened because Mr. Brouwer raised his questions concerning new 69-3-2004(2)(b). It now reads:

(b) (i) As part of their compliance with subsection (4)(a) (2)(a), public utilities shall purchase renewable energy credits, or both the renewable energy credits and the electricity output from community renewable energy projects that total at least 75 megawatts in nameplate capacity.

(ii) In meeting the standard in subsection (4)(b)(i) (2)(b)(i), a public utility may include: (a) purchases made under subsection (3)(b) electricity and renewable energy credit purchases made from community renewable energy projects, or

(b) in the alternative, it may include renewable energy credit purchases made from community renewable energy projects, or (c) any combination of (2)(b)(ii)(a) and (2)(b)(ii)(b).

Similar wording is inserted in section (3)(b).

Amendments also delete the portion of the electricity production tax that applies to small net metered producers where the tax would be difficult to administer. That is found in sections 9 and 20.

Metering concerns have been addressed: MEIC wrote: “It is not possible for a utility to buy the energy from generators that serve onsite load.” I-180 either as amended or prior to being amended did not contemplate utilities buying power that was serving an onsite load. That would be double counting. Both drafts do contemplate that if the energy is not being used onsite, a utility may purchase that energy. The amended draft clarifies the intent to allow homeowners and other onsite energy generators to sell renewable energy credits separately from the energy.

MEIC also wrote: “It is also not possible for behind-the-meter generators such as net-metered customers to produce verifiable renewable energy credits.”

We are not sure why that claim was made because our experience is that dual metering produces verifiable renewable energy credits which Colorado utilities, for example, count toward meeting their renewable energy goals.

Also, it is possible to Net Meter with a single meter and verify renewable energy credits. For example, see where “one meter has multiple channels pre-programmed to record energy flow in one direction on one set of channels and energy flow in the opposite direction on another set of channels.” Such single metering is used by Consumers Energy. .

And single metering is recognized in Pennsylvania law at :

(a) A customer-generator facility used for net metering must be equipped with a single bidirectional meter that can measure and record the flow of electricity in both directions at the same rate. If the customer-generator agrees, a dual meter arrangement may be substituted for a single bidirectional meter.

Lost tribal royalty revenue: In addition, during the signature gathering process, we became aware of the fact that tribal areas were losing coal royalty revenue. The amendments in Section 11 begin to address that revenue loss.