HB 144 harms solar jobs and investments in Montana by eliminating modest incentives for net-metered clean energy systems. Montana’s solar industry is on the cusp of explosive growth that would create new, well-paying jobs across the state. Instead of seeking to help these new jobs and businesses grow, this bill bluntly targets only net metering tax credits for elimination. When the Republican controlled legislature first passed net metering in 1999, it found: “…it is in the public interest to promote net-metering because it encourages private investment in renewable energy resources, stimulates Montana’s economic growth, and enhances the continued diversification of the energy resources used in Montana.”
This remains true today and we should be looking to continue to promote small-scale solar, not discourage it.
HB 144 also seeks to eliminate energy conservation incentives. Energy efficiency upgrades on homes and businesses saves all utility customers money, not just those who do the upgrades. By reducing energy demand fewer power plants need to be built and operated, less gas and electric transmission infrastructure needs to be built and maintained, and less fuel like coal and gas needs to be extracted and burned. This saves all utility customers money by keeping utility bills down. This energy conservation credit is available to members of electric co-operatives as well as investor-owned utilities like NorthWestern Energy and Montana Dakota Utilities.
Additional reasons to oppose this bill:
- According to the Montana Renewable Energy Association, in 2014 net-metering tax credits amounted to $161,000 in avoided revenue to the state. That same year net-metered systems generated more than $3 million in sales revenue for the renewable energy industry.
- These tax credits are important for the development of Montana’s growing renewable energy industry; they help Montanans make the decision to invest in clean energy systems.
- Incentives like these have helped Montana’s local solar installers while they battle legislative barriers that would otherwise allow the industry to flourish, including an outdated 50 kilowatt system cap, and restrictions on the implementation of neighborhood net-metering and aggregate net-metering.
- Clean energy incentives pale in comparison to fossil fuel incentives. These solar and wind incentives are estimated to result in about $120,000 annual avoided tax revenue going forward. In contrast, a single oil and gas tax incentive – the Oil and Gas Tax Holiday MCA 15-36-304 – has cost the state $265 million in revenue since 2008.
The bill was heard on Thursday, Jan. 24th in the House Taxation committee. It is awaiting a vote in that committee.