PSC Rules in Favor of Net Metering
November 27, 2019
After a very long year of planning for the worst, the Montana solar industry took a collective sigh of relief on November 25th when the Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously rejected NorthWestern Energy's rate proposal that would have brought the residential solar market to a screeching halt. OnSite Energy's co-owner Conor Darby was interviewed by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on the ruling here.
NorthWestern Energy filed the general electric rate case with the PSC in September of 2018, backing their claim that net metered solar customers create an unfair cost shift onto non-net metered customers with a third-party study funded by the monopoly utility themselves. In partnership with Vote Solar, the Montana Renewable Energy Association (MREA) intervened in the rate case on the basis that the study provided by the utility was insufficient and in some cases glaringly inaccurate.
Despite the seemingly obvious lack of proof for NorthWestern Energy's argument, we had ample reason to fear the worst. The utility has been relentlessly trying to restrict net metering and the growth of the MT solar industry at every opportunity over the past 10+ years, and the PSC has historically taken their side. However, after receiving some bad press for trying to limit the growth of solar and losing a subsequent lawsuit, the PSC was suddenly under an unusual amount of public scrutiny. Coupled with the ever increasing popularity of residential roof top solar, Montanans (including many of our wonderful customers!) sent a loud and clear message to the PSC and the utility that they did not approve of this unjustified rate hike.
Public support, the hard work of MREA and Vote Solar, and the PSC Staff Recommendation are some of the many factors that came together to get the message across the to the PSC, and we are so grateful that they listened! In a 5-0 vote, the PSC rejected NorthWestern Energy's proposal, and will reconsider the issue when the utility can provide more accurate data.
Although the issue will undoubtedly return at some point down the line, we're celebrating this huge success for the time being! Now we can stop bracing for impact and get back to what we do best: empowering our local and regional community members to choose a future of clean renewable solar energy that benefits our natural environment, future generations, and our state's economy. Woo!
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