Montana judge rules PSC intentionally set PURPA rates to kill solar projects

Dive Brief:

  • A Montana district court judge last week issued an order in favor of solar developers, ruling that the state’s Public Service Commission intentionally disadvantaged small solar projects in violation of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA).
  • The ruling comes after a June 2017 audio recording captured Commissioner Bob Lake acknowledging that cuts to compensation rates the commission had approved that morning were likely deep enough to kill small solar projects. After the recording was released, a number of solar developers in the state filed suit against NorthWestern and the PSC.
  • The PSC cut the rates utilities have to pay solar producers under PURPA by 40%, from $66/MWh to $31/MWh, and cut contracts from 25 to 15 years. District Judge James Manley’s order gives the PSC 20 days to come up with new compensation rates and restore contracts to 25 years.