Montana Laws Set Requirements for Renewable Energy and Ethanol
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer signed two bills into law in late April, establishing requirements for renewable energy and ethanol use throughout the state. Senate Bill 415 requires public utilities to purchase at least 5 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources in 2008, increasing to 15 percent by 2015. Eligible renewable energy sources include small hydropower, most biomass sources, and wind, solar, and geothermal energy, as well as fuel cells using hydrogen generated from any of these energy sources. The law also requires public utilities to buy some of their renewable energy from customer-sited facilities with capacities of 5 megawatts or less. By 2015, such "community renewable energy projects" must provide 75 megawatts of renewable energy capacity for each of the state's public utilities. Montana has two public utilities: NorthWestern Energy and Montana-Dakota Utilities. See the full text and history of Senate Bill 415.
Senate Bill 293 requires nearly all gasoline in the state to be blended with 10 percent ethanol. The law will take effect a year after the state's ethanol plants achieve the ability to produce 40 million gallons of ethanol per year and demonstrate that ability for three months. With the mandate in place, the law also reduces tax incentives and credits for the production and sale of ethanol. See the full text and history of Senate Bill 293.
Other energy-related bills that the governor recently signed include Senate Bill 50, which expands the state's alternative energy revolving loan program and extends it to local government, universities, and nonprofits; Senate Bill 83, which clarifies that renewable energy projects are eligible for the state's renewable resource grants and loans; Senate Bill 340, which provides a tax credit for residential geothermal heating and cooling systems; and Senate Bill 365, which extends funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects through 2009. See the texts of Senate Bill 50, Senate Bill 83, Senate Bill 340, and Senate Bill 365.