Montana's largest investor-owned utility channels about $1 million per year of its system-benefits funds to support renewable energy, with a particular emphasis on photovoltaics (PV) and small wind. Like New York (see separate case study on support for PV in New York), Montana has chosen to develop a handful of programs targeting different PV and small wind applications. This case study describes these programs. Innovative Features Despite limited funding, Montana's programs have been largely successful in installing PV and small wind in targeted applications that the fund administrator believes deserve special attention.
- Part of this success is due to the work of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), which administers several major projects on behalf of the utility – this "outsourced" administrative structure is an innovative one that has proven successful.
- Montana's programs are also somewhat unique in that they have targeted niche applications such as PV-powered livestock watering systems, as well as other targeted applications such as solar on schools (with a strong educational component). As with New York, this multi-faceted approach allows Montana's fund to proactively target what it considers to be the most economical, the most educational, and the most innovative PV and small wind applications. This approach may, arguably, lead to a more sustainable market for PV and small wind in the long-term than more blunt buy-down programs, but may do so at the expense of market and business stability in the near term.
Results In the 2-3 years that they have been operating, Montana's programs have installed roughly 200 kW of PV and small wind capacity at an average award of approximately $5/W.