Customer energy efficiency programs are run through individual utilizes in Montana. Utilities include a universal system benefits charge for each customer meter (see Mont. Code 69-8-402). The Montana Public Service Commission reviews and approves each regulated utility’s plans for the system benefits funding. Cooperative utilities also run programs, which are approved by the local cooperative governing board. Utilities may also choose to turn their funds over to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to administer energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Low-income programs are also run by the Department of Health and Social Services.
Western Montana is part of the region served by the Bonneville Power Administration. Consequently, that part of the state is also included in the activities of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. NorthWestern Energy is participating in a five-year smart grid demonstration project initiated by the Bonneville Power Administration with support from the U.S. Department of Energy. This project will extend through 2014.
Montana has commercial, residential, and residential low income natural gas efficiency programs implemented by the utilities and their subcontractors. Programs were mandated by statute in 1997 as part of natural gas restructuring.
NorthWestern Energy allows customers with demand larger than 1 MW to channel their cost-recovery mechanism (CRM) funds to an escrow account that repays them on a quarterly basis for completed self-direct projects. The annual maximum contribution is $500,000 and companies have two years to use their funds before they are returned to the larger pool of CRM revenues. NorthWestern administers the funds but provides no measurement or verification. Self-direct customers file annual reports with the Montana Department of Revenue. The department publishes these reports and a public "challenge" process is provided for as the only scrutiny or review. More information on large customer self-direct programs can be found in the ACEEE report, Follow the Leaders: Improving Large Customer Self-Direct Programs.
The most recent budgets for energy efficiency programs and electricity and natural gas savings can be found in the State Spending and Savings Tables on the left.
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