Library filed under Taxes & Subsidies from Montana
Supporters of a bill designed to let an electricity cooperative pursue two wind farm projects in Eastern Montana like to say it gives "a green light to green energy." But opponents, including NorthWestern Energy and the state Public Service Commission, testified Monday that only Montana power consumers will see "green" - in the form of higher utility bills. The measure, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Dave Wanzenried of Missoula, would enable the Billings-based Green Electricity Buying Cooperative to own $31.7 million in wind farm projects and sell bonds to finance them. Current law limits co-ops to buying and supplying power.
The Montana Public Service Commission voted 4-1 Jan. 29 to oppose a Montana Senate bill that would allow a renewable energy cooperative to move forward with plans to create two wind power generation sites, the PSC chairman told the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. In a note of explanation, the author of SB337, Russ Doty, wrote, “This legislation is needed to allow the Green Electricity Buying Co-op (GEBCO) to own the windmills that it has received authorization to finance with zero interest Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs). Without this legislation the $31.7 million in CREBs authorizations will be forfeited and likely reassigned to other states.” Mr. Doty is the executive director of the Billings-based co-op. The co-op plans to use the bonds to build two 20-megawatt wind farms in Montana. One site would be south of Fort Peck on the Towe Farm in McCone County. The other facility would sit near Molt Road in Yellowstone County, a press release said.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer wants property tax breaks as big as 75 percent for “clean and green” energy development and transmission, part of his effort to develop energy resources in the state. Schweitzer unveiled details on the tax breaks Wednesday, which he hinted at during his State of the State Address last week. A leading Republican in the Legislature said he thought the incentive package would receive bipartisan support.
The leadership of the Montana House of Representatives has accused the Public Service Commission of trying to skirt consumer protections that became law in 2005. In a letter to PSC Chairman Greg Jergeson, House Speaker Scott Sales and House Majority Leader Mike Lange warned that any attempt to go around the protections built into last session’s Senate Bill 415 would be met by “appropriate action” from the House. The controversy centers around who will pay for the cost of ancillary services associated with small-scale alternative power generation. Those are items related to the generation and delivery of power that don’t include its simple generation, transmission and delivery. Some of those services would include energy loss, energy imbalance, scheduling and dispatching, according to SB 415. Commissioner Jergeson said that in 1993 the PSC decided that facilities that were rated fewer than three megawatts were not on the hook for those costs. None of the current commissioners were serving then. The commission recently ruled that generation facilities with capacities under 10 megawatts would not have to pay ancillary costs.
A new electricity cooperative dedicated to “green” energy cleared a major hurdle when it received nearly $32 million in tax-free bonding authority from the federal government for a wind farm. But significant hurdles remain before the co-op realizes its goal of supplying Montanans with power that doesn’t pollute. “It’s by no means a done deal,” said Russ Doty, executive director of Green Electricity Buying Cooperative.
A bitterly divided Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved new prices for small “renewable” power projects in Montana selling to NorthWestern Energy, with Republicans arguing the decision will cost electric ratepayers more money. Yet Democrats, who made up the 3-2 majority approving the rates, said the prices and standard contract are required by law and won’t increase rates by much, if at all. They also said the decision will help encourage development of small wind-power and other alternative energy projects across Montana.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 Federal Clean Renewable Energy bonds totaling $31.7 million were awarded to the Green Electricity Buying Cooperative. The Montana co-op announced it will use the funds to build two wind farm projects in McCone and Yellowstone Counties that will produce approximately 20 megawatts of clean power.
Montana will receive $72 million in financing for 34 new wind power projects planned mostly by small cities and counties in northeastern and southeastern parts of the state, Sen. Max Baucus announced Friday afternoon. “This is very good news,” the Montana Democrat said at a news conference in Billings. Some of the recipients participated in the conference by video and thanked Baucus for his efforts. Even Baucus seemed surprised with the level of funding, which came through a federal program he crafted, Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS). The bonding program passed Congress as part of the 2005 Energy Bill. “I am just astounded and so wonderfully surprised. Seventy-two million, that’s a lot for our state,” Baucus said.
The Montana Public Service Commission has endorsed new policies that could help the development of small, alternative power projects in the state. On two 4-1 votes Tuesday, the commission said small wind, hydro and other renewable electrical power projects will get long-term contracts at a standard rate to sell power to utilities. Such contracts would help the smaller projects obtain financing.
HELENA - Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jon Tester has staked a good chunk of his political reputation on his support for alternative energy, like wind power. But when you hear his opponent, U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., talk energy policy these days, the two often sound the same. Burns, long seen as a reliable friend of the oil and gas industry, is touting his work on alternative energy, noting that the 2005 federal energy bill contained vital incentives to boost wind power. "We would not have the windmills going up in Montana had it not been for our work in that energy bill," says Burns. "Nothing moved until we got those (tax) credits for wind."
Churning wind turbines may soon power Cascade County's courthouse, jail and health department.
WASHINGTON (LEE) —Thirty-five Montana cities and counties filed applications Wednesday for interest-free federal financing for wind energy projects, with Yellowstone and Cascade county commissioners coming to Washington to submit theirs and to lobby on rural issues.