Proposed energy bills would benefit utilities, tax electric vehicles

It takes some candlepower to churn out 127 would-be bills concerning energy, but it’s nothing compared to getting one passed in the Montana Legislature.

Consider that in 2021 there were 121 bill drafts requested by lawmakers on energy matters. Of those requests, only 14 became laws. Odds of a draft eventually becoming law were 11.5%, about the same as surviving CPR given by a stone-cold newcomer receiving instructions from a 911 dispatcher. The biggest bills were later declared unconstitutional.

There are some givens, though. This Legislature will hear at least one proposal to base the rates utility customers pay for power plants on estimated costs rather than actual costs. This practice, known as pre-approval, allows a utility to present to regulators an estimate of costs pre-purchase or pre-construction. If regulators approve, that estimate is then used to put customers on a debt schedule of 25 to 30 years to pay for the plant.

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If the power plant winds up costing less than the estimate used to determine rates, the price consumers pay is still based on the estimate for the duration of the debt. Maybe an existing power plant

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