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House Bill 359, introduced by Rep. Brewster, R-Billings, will effectively destroy Montana’s solar industry and cost the state hundreds of well-paying jobs provided by local businesses across the state. The issue at hand is net metering, which is a billing mechanism that allows Montanans who invested in rooftop solar and small wind systems to get credits on their energy bills for any excess electricity that they send back out to the grid. The excess energy goes to their neighbors to use, which the utility gets paid for. The bill credits can be used later to help lower their energy costs.

The proposed legislation intends to upend that program by reducing the value of solar credits by about 70%, which will increase the time it takes to pay off the investment by up to decades. What’s worse is the changes would impact the more than 3,000 Montanans who currently own rooftop solar and small wind systems.

These aren’t just households; they are our libraries, schools, fire stations, small businesses, and farmers and ranchers. This bill is signaling to Montanans — all Montanans — that they shouldn’t be allowed to produce their own energy to save money on their electricity bills.

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Andrew Valainis is the executive director of the Montana Renewable Energy Association. MREA is a non-profit organization that works to educate and advocate for renewable energy across Montana.

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