Montana Legislators Relax Renewable Power Rules

Published May 1, 2009

The Montana legislature has passed two bills making it easier for utilities to meet the state’s renewable power mandates.

House Bill 207 expands the size of renewable power projects that qualify as small producers under the state’s renewable power mandate. House Bill 208 extends the deadline for utilities to meet the state’s mandate.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed HB 207 on February 3, with the Senate passing the bill 38-12 on March 7. The House passed HB 208 by a 97-3 vote on February 9, with the Senate passing the bill 34-16 on March 7.

The bipartisan support for the two bills suggested both parties have substantial concerns about the feasibility of achieving the ambitious renewable mandates passed in 2005.

HB 207 allows producers of up to 25 megawatts to fulfill the “small producer” mandates of the state’s renewable power mandate. Previously, only producers of 5 megawatts or less were qualified. Utilities had reported the 5 megawatt limitation was forcing them to purchase much more expensive power than proponents had anticipated.

Lawmakers intended the small producer mandate to encourage energy production in rural areas. Without the mandate, utilities would likely purchase all or nearly all of their renewable power from larger producers.

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.