The Montana Legislature is continuing its naive campaign to undermine the development of new renewable energy resources in Montana. Montana’s Renewable Portfolio Standard has been the standard bearer over the last eight years that has compelled renewable energy development from a mere 2 megawatts before 2005 to over 600 megawatts today. A critical component of the Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that a portion of new renewable energy comes from projects that are community in nature. These projects—such as Diamond Willow Wind near Baker or the new Gibson Hydro Facility by Fairfield—offer an opportunity for communities and individuals to own renewable energy resources and to diversify the jobs and taxes created from projects across Montana. Like the Renewable Portfolio Standard, the utilities can seek an exemption if such projects are not feasible—as NorthWestern successfully did in 2012.
Current legislation, SB 125 sponsored by Sen. Olsen, undermines the standard by removing the penalty to the utility, making these projects effectively a suggestion. Not only is this detrimental to encouraging clean renewable energy, it is just bad legislating as it leaves the utility floating with a nebulous mandate. A better option, is for the legislature to evaluate the importance of community renewable energy, as part of Sen. Olson’s own omnibus study resolution, SJ 6, to look at the Renewable Portfolio Standard after 10 years. For these reasons, I encourage Gov. Bullock to veto SB 125.