The Energy and Telecommunications Interim Committee elected Sen. Mary McNally (D-Billings) presiding officer and Rep. Derek Skees (R-Kalispell) vice presiding officer at the committee’s first meeting of the 2017-2018 interim.
Committee members also approved their interim work plan at the July 31 meeting, allocating nearly half of their time to studying the viability of utility decoupling for Montana utility companies. Decoupling is a method of public utility regulation in which profits are not connected to the sale of produced power. Most utilities profits are connected directly to retail sales. Decoupling would link profit to the number of customers a utility serves rather than to the amount of energy sold.
The study is the result of Senate Joint Resolution 31 (2017), which directed the committee to examine the merits and drawbacks of utility decoupling, review options to address sales fluctuations under the policy, and examine the potential impact of decoupling to ratepayers and utilities.
ETIC members also chose to begin studying natural gas utility customer choice options for Montana ratepayers served by Montana-Dakota Utilities in eastern Montana. Currently, NorthWestern Energy customers in western Montana can choose to purchase fuel from independent natural gas distributors. Legislators requested the study with the passage of House Joint Resolution 28 (2017). ETIC members will identify the cost for monopoly utilities to allow consumer choice on their systems, the merits and drawbacks of consumer choice regulation, and any costs passed on to consumers.
The committee also agreed to study renewable energy credits and economic development opportunities for the energy sector in the state.
ETIC will also review the following:
ETIC members will monitor the Montana Public Service Commission’s activity and an ongoing revision of the state’s guide Understanding Energy in Montana.
Senate members of ETIC are Mary McNally (D-Billings), Tom Richmond (R-Billings), Scott Sales (R-Bozeman), and Cynthia Wolken (D-Missoula).
House members include Laurie Bishop (D-Livingston), Zac Perry (D-Hungry Horse), Derek Skees (R-Kalispell) and Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings).
For more information on the committee’s activities and upcoming meetings, please visit the committee’s website or contact Sonja Nowakowski or Trevor Graff, committee staff. A full agenda and meeting materials will be posted approximately two weeks in advance of each meeting.