Moving the Goalposts in Montana
Solar is under attack in Montana. We are working with Earthjustice and the Montana Environmental Information Center to keep solar shining in the state.
Here’s the backstory. The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) is a federal law that requires utilities to buy renewables if they are cheaper than avoided costs of conventional alternatives. The purpose was to encourage the development of small, distributed clean generators across the US. And if they are cheaper than the polluting alternatives, who could object?
Well, unfortunately, the utility is objecting. In Montana, solar is now cheaper than the avoided cost rate, and there’s upwards of a couple hundred megawatts of solar under development. Now that the law is delivering exactly the outcome it was designed to — clean power, cheaper than the alternative — NorthWestern Energy is trying to move the goalposts. They are asking regulators for an emergency suspension of the program, and are trying to cut the rate in half.
We have petitioned for intervention on behalf of our Montana members to keep solar shining. Here’s our initial filed comments (pdf).
Montana isn’t the only place where this is happening. We’ve seen similar efforts to undermine PURPA and renewables in OR, ID, NC, UT, CO. There’s a discussion coming up soon in Michigan, and some more states in the offing. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is holding a technical workshop at the end of the month.
At stake is literally gigawatts of clean, renewable energy. We’re gearing up.