Solar net metering bill withdrawn | 406 Politics

An attempt to drastically cut the benefits of net metering was withdrawn Friday as advocates of rooftop solar power lined up to protest.

Billings Republican Larry Brewster told the House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations Committee that some information in his bill was inaccurate and they didn’t want to go through with the hearing.

There were 49 people waiting to testify against the bill online and a few dozen more waiting outside the hearing. It was only 3:40 p.m., but committee chairman, Derek Skees, a Kalispell Republican, had ordered the committee sandwiches for dinner. The night was going to be long with Brewster’s House Bill 359 taking up a majority of the committee’s time.

Few energy issues drive public turnout like solar net metering, in which homeowners with solar panels earn a credit for selling surplus power back to the state’s largest monopoly utility, NorthWestern Energy.

“I just want to apologize to all the people who came to testify, but I would rather have the facts straight, and solutions, and honest, straight forward information before I move forward,” Brewster told the committee, of which he’s also a member.

Skees said it was unlikely the bill could be resuscitated in the week ahead as the Legislature works through multiple bills as it approaches transmittal deadline, the legislative session’s midpoint at which all non-revenue bills must pass to the opposite chamber or expire in process.