Montana governor vetoes anti-solar legislation

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock prevented the state’s utility from smothering the solar industry when he vetoed Senate Bill (SB) 7 last week.

In what is becoming a depressingly familiar refrain from terrified utilities around the country, SB 7 was supposed to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist – namely, the false idea the non-solar customers “subsidize” solar customers who, the monopoly utilities say, don’t pay for grid upkeep because they generate their own electricity.

Specifically, the bill said (emphasis added):

The legislature further finds that customers using net metering systems under this part may not be subsidized by other public utility customers who do not use net metering systems.

Bullock did not find this argument persuasive, arguing that the legislature is likely to authorize a study by the state’s Public Service Commission (PUC) to study whether net-metering does result in shifting costs to non-solar customers. At least 16 other state-level studies, combined with at least one national study, have shown no such cost-shift exists. Funding for the study will be finalized if House Bill (HB) 219 passes as expected.

In his veto letter, Bullock wrote:

2017-04-24 07_40_34-SB0007GovVeto.pdf

The governor added that he pledged in his Energy Blueprint in June that he would oppose efforts to weaken net-metering because it would harm the distributed-generation sector of the economy. “Hurting a vibrant sector of the economy is not in anyone’s interest,” Bullock wrote.

According to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, Montana currently supports 168 solar jobs, 107 of which are in manufacturing.