69-8-402. Universal system benefits programs. (1) Universal system benefits programs are established for the state of Montana to ensure continued funding of and new expenditures for energy conservation, renewable resource projects and applications, and low-income energy assistance.
(2) Except as provided in subsection (11), beginning January 1, 1999, 2.4% of each utility's annual retail sales revenue in Montana for the calendar year ending December 31, 1995, is established as the initial funding level for universal system benefits programs. To collect this amount of funds on an annualized basis in 1999, the commission shall establish rates for utilities subject to its jurisdiction and the governing boards of cooperatives shall establish rates for the cooperatives.
(a) The recovery of all universal system benefits programs costs imposed pursuant to this section is authorized through the imposition of a universal system benefits charge assessed at the meter for each local utility system customer as provided in this section.
(b) A utility must receive credit toward annual funding requirements for the utility's internal programs or activities that qualify as universal system benefits programs, including those amortized or nonamortized portions of expenditures for the purchase of power that are for the acquisition or support of renewable energy, conservation-related activities, or low-income energy assistance, and for large customers' programs or activities as provided in subsection (7). The department of revenue shall review claimed credits of the utilities and large customers pursuant to 69-8-414.
(c) A utility at which the sale of power for final end use occurs is the utility that receives credit for the universal system benefits programs expenditure.
(d) A customer's utility shall collect universal system benefits funds less any allowable credits.
(e) For a utility to receive credit for low-income-related expenditures, the activity must have taken place in Montana.
(f) If a utility's or a large customer's credit for internal activities does not satisfy the annual funding provisions of this subsection (2), then the utility or large customer shall make a payment to the universal system benefits fund established in 69-8-412 for any difference.
(3) Cooperative utilities may collectively pool their statewide credits to satisfy their annual funding requirements for universal system benefits programs and low-income energy assistance.
(4) A utility's transition plan must describe how the utility proposes to provide for universal system benefits programs, including the methodologies, such as cost-effectiveness and need determination, used to measure the utility's level of contribution to each program.
(5) (a) A cooperative utility's minimum annual funding requirement for low-income energy and weatherization assistance is established at 17% of the cooperative utility's annual universal system benefits funding level and is inclusive within the overall universal system benefits funding level.
(b) Except as provided in subsection (11), a public utility's minimum annual funding requirement for low-income energy and weatherization assistance is established at 50% of the public utility's annual universal system benefits funding level and is inclusive within the overall universal system benefits funding level.
(c) A utility must receive credit toward the utility's low-income energy assistance annual funding requirement for the utility's internal low-income energy assistance programs or activities. Internal programs and activities may include providing low-income energy and weatherization assistance on Indian reservations.
(d) If a utility's credit for internal activities does not satisfy its annual funding requirement, then the utility shall make a payment for any difference to the universal low-income energy assistance fund established in 69-8-412.
(6) An individual customer may not bear a disproportionate share of the local utility's funding requirements, and a sliding scale must be implemented to provide a more equitable distribution of program costs.
(7) (a) A large customer:
(i) shall pay a universal system benefits programs charge with respect to the large customer's qualifying load equal to the lesser of:
(A) $500,000, less the large customer credits provided for in this subsection (7); or
(B) the product of 0.9 mills per kilowatt hour multiplied by the large customer's total kilowatt hour purchases, less large customer credits with respect to that qualifying load provided for in this subsection (7);
(ii) must receive credit toward that large customer's universal system benefits charge for internal expenditures and activities that qualify as a universal system benefits programs expenditure, and these internal expenditures must include but not be limited to:
(A) expenditures that result in a reduction in the consumption of electrical energy in the large customer's facility; and
(B) those amortized or nonamortized portions of expenditures for the purchase of power at retail or wholesale that are for the acquisition or support of renewable energy or conservation-related activities.
(b) Large customers making these expenditures must receive a credit against the large customer's universal system benefits charge, except that any of those amounts expended in a calendar year that exceed that large customer's universal system benefits charge for the calendar year must be used as a credit against those charges in future years until the total amount of those expenditures has been credited against that large customer's universal system benefits charges.
(8) (a) Except as provided in subsection (11), a public utility shall prepare and submit an annual summary report of the public utility's activities relating to all universal system benefits programs to the commission, the department of revenue, and the energy and telecommunications interim committee provided for in 5-5-230. A cooperative utility shall prepare and submit annual summary reports of activities to the cooperative utility's respective local governing body, the statewide cooperative utility office, and the energy and telecommunications interim committee. The statewide cooperative utility office shall prepare and submit an annual summary report of the activities of individual cooperative utilities, including a summary of the pooling of statewide credits, as provided in subsection (3), to the department of revenue and the energy and telecommunications interim committee. The annual report of a public utility or of the statewide cooperative utility office must include but is not limited to:
(i) the types of internal utility and customer programs being used to satisfy the provisions of this chapter;
(ii) the level of funding for those programs relative to the annual funding requirements prescribed in subsection (2);
(iii) any payments made to the statewide funds in the event that internal funding was below the prescribed annual funding requirements; and
(iv) the names of all large customers who either utilized credits to minimize or eliminate their charge pursuant to subsection (7) or received a reimbursement for universal system benefits related to expenditures from the utility during the previous reporting year.
(b) Before September 15 of the year preceding a legislative session, the energy and telecommunications interim committee shall:
(i) review the universal system benefits programs and, if necessary, submit recommendations regarding these programs to the legislature; and
(ii) review annual universal system benefits reports provided by utilities in accordance with subsection (8)(a) and compare those reports with reports provided by large customers to the department of revenue in accordance with subsection (10)(a) and identify large customers, if any, who are not in compliance with reporting requirements in accordance with this subsection (8) and subsection (10).
(9) A utility or large customer filing for a credit shall develop and maintain appropriate documentation to support the utility's or the large customer's claim for the credit.
(10) (a) A large customer claiming credits for a calendar year shall submit an annual summary report of its universal system benefits programs activities and expenditures to the department of revenue and to the large customer's utility. A report must be filed with the department even if a large customer is being reimbursed for a prior year's project. The annual report of a large customer must identify each qualifying project or expenditure for which it has claimed a credit and the amount of the credit. Prior approval by the utility is not required, except as provided in subsection (10)(b).
(b) If a large customer claims a credit that the department of revenue disallows in whole or in part, the large customer is financially responsible for the disallowance. A large customer and the large customer's utility may mutually agree that credits claimed by the large customer be first approved by the utility. If the utility approves the large customer credit, the utility may be financially responsible for any subsequent disallowance.
(11) A public utility with fewer than 50 customers is exempt from the requirements of this section.
History: En. Sec. 22, Ch. 505, L. 1997; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 580, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 188, L. 2001; amd. Sec. 14, Ch. 577, L. 2001 (voided by I.R. No. 117, Nov. 5, 2002); amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 290, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 15, Ch. 565, L. 2003; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 256, L. 2005; amd. Sec. 10, Ch. 491, L. 2007; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 55, L. 2009; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 252, L. 2015; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 393, L. 2015.