HB 219, by Rep. Zach Brown (D-Bozeman), would require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to set minimum standards for conducting a cost-benefit analysis of net metering. NorthWestern Energy would then complete the study before a specified date: April 1, 2018. The PSC would use the utility’s results to determine any changes to be made to the net metering program as part of the next general electric rate case.
MEIC opposes this bill because April 1, 2018 is an arbitrary and premature date for conducting this critically important study, potentially leading to untrustworthy results. Utility experts advise this study take place when at least 1.0% of a utility’s energy needs are met by net metering. This threshold ensures enough net metering systems are on the grid (i.e. enough data points) to produce accurate, reliable, and valid data collection and analysis when conducting a cost-benefit study. Currently, net metering contributes to about 0.07% of NorthWestern’s energy needs.
A 1.0% threshold would also be in line with actions other states have taken when setting review triggers for net metering. This allowed the solar industry to grow in those states while also providing certainty to legislators, utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders.
The original form of HB 219 would have set 1% of NorthWestern’s electricity sales being met by net metered systems as the trigger for a study. This would be a more appropriate timeline, ensuring more trustworthy results on a timeline that provides certainty for all stakeholders.