Renewable Energy Tax and Other Incentives

Montana Incentives for Renewable Energy

There are many incentives available to Montana residents, businesses, and developers looking to invest in clean energy solutions within Montana. These incentives can help reduce the costs associated with implementing clean energy.

Descriptions of all renewable energy incentives available in Montana can be found below.

Tax Incentives

Other Financial Incentives

Topic: Renewable resource grant and loan program
Citation: 85-1-601 et seq. MCA

The renewable resource grant and loan program is administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Historically the program primarily has funded water projects, but it does offer grants to renewable energy projects of state, local, or tribal government entities. On a biennial basis, DNRC evaluates and recommends projects to the Legislature for funding.

Contact: Pam Smith, DNRC, 406-444-6839
Topic: Grants for renewable research and development
Citation: 90-3-1001 et seq. MCA

The board of research and commercialization technology gives grants for renewable resource research and development projects, among other types, to be conducted at research and commercialization centers located in Montana.

Contact: Dave Desch, Executive Director, 841-2760, or visit the website
Topic: Local government revenue bonds
Citation: 90-5-101 et seq. MCA

Limited obligation local government bonds ("special revenue bonds") may be issued for qualified electric energy generation facilities, including those powered by renewables. These bonds generally are secured by the project itself. The taxing power or general credit of the government may not be used to secure the bonds. Local governments may not operate any project financed by the sale of revenue bonds as a business except to lease it to some other party.

These bonds are exempt from state taxes and may qualify for federal tax incentives. The tax-exemption feature allows funds to be borrowed at a significantly lower rate (1-2 percent) than possible with taxable bonds. There are various restrictions on how such bonds may be used. Because of the legal complexity of a bond issue, retaining bond counsel is important.

The total amount of special revenue bonds that can be issued by state and local governments combined is capped, which theoretically could limit a government’s ability to issue new bonds for a generation facility.

Contact: Any interested county or municipality

Loan Programs

Programs Through Utilities

Topic: Small Power Production Facilities ("Qualifying Facilities")
Citation: 69-3-601 et seq. MCA

The Public Service Commission sets special rates at which NorthWestern Energy or Montana-Dakota Utilities must buy power from qualifying facilities that either 1) use renewable resources or waste materials or 2) cogenerate. Flathead Electric Coop is the only rural electric cooperative that must offer QF contracts. It is regulated directly by FERC.

The nameplate capacity of eligible facilities can be no more than 80 MW according to federal legislation. The rates set by the PSC must be in compliance with the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). The PSC requires QFs larger than 10 MW to go through an RFP process to obtain a long-term contract. Between solicitations, QFs larger than 10 MW can sell to the utility at a tariffed short-term rate.

NWE is the only Montana utility with QFs; its tariffs are available on its website.

The 2003 Legislature passed HB417, which repeals all Montana mini-PURPA, contingent on repeal of federal PURPA. It would not affect any legal action or agreement made prior to the repeal.

Contact: Frank Bennett, NorthWestern Energy, 406-497-2536 ; Darcy Neigum, Montana-Dakota Utilities, 701-222-7757; John Goroski, Flathead Electric Cooperative, 406-751-4468; Utility Division, Public Service Commission, 406-444-6199
Topic: Consumer Protection
Citation: 69-3-1404(2) MCA

The Public Service Commission has the authority to regulate abusive practices by suppliers and others. The PSC requires suppliers to substantiate any claims that their natural gas is from renewable resources. (See ARM 38.5.6010 Claims Made In Marketing Natural Gas.)

Contact: Utility Division, Public Service Commission, 406-444-6199
Topic: Retail Green Power
Citation: 69-8-210(2) MCA

NorthWestern Energy must offer customers an opportunity to purchase a separately marketed (and possibly differently priced) product composed of power from biomass, wind, solar or geothermal resources. The PSC ensures that these resources have been certified as meeting industry-accepted standards.

Contact: NorthWestern Energy Green Power; Utility Division, Public Service Commission, 406-444-6199
Topic: Universal System Benefits Programs
Citation: 69-8-402 MCA

All distribution utilities and cooperatives must collect a Universal System Benefits Charge (USBC), which is used for low-income assistance and weatherization, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and R&D programs. Utilities and cooperatives may manage their own USB program, or may pay into state funds that implement the USB program. The charge is set at a level rate that would have generated 2.4 percent of each utility’s 1995 retail sales revenue at 1995 sales volumes. However, the amount that can be charged to large customers is capped. Therefore, the total annual collection is less than 2.4 percent of the total utility and co-op revenue. Since actual loads vary year to year, total USBC collections also vary. The largest program is run by NorthWestern Energy.

Contact: NorthWestern Energy, 406-497-2329; Tamie Aberle, Montana-Dakota Utilities, 701-222-7856; Utility Division, Public Service Commission, 406-444-6199
Topic: Net Metering
Citation: 69-8-601 et seq. MCA

Net metering is an arrangement that allows surplus energy generated by the customer’s renewable energy system to go back onto the utility electric system. The customer’s meter measures the electricity the customer uses from the utility system less the electricity the customer’s system puts back. The customer receives "credit" at retail rates for the electricity put back on the system, up to the amount of power the customer actually consumes at the location.               

Contact: Pamela Hanson, NorthWestern Energy, 406-497-3343, or see NWE’s interconnection agreement; Tamie Aberle, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., 701-222-7856; Utility Division, Public Service Commission, 406-444-6199; your local co-op office

Other Programs that Support Renewables

Topic: Special Improvement Districts
Citation: 7-12-4101 et seq. MCA

A city or town council may create a special improvement district for the purchase, installation, maintenance, and management of alternative energy production facilities. Under certain conditions, abutting property in the county can be included in a district. Property owners in the district are assessed a fee to pay for the investment and operation of the facilities.

Contact: The relevant local government
Topic: Solar Easements
Citation: 70-17-301 MCA

Property owners may create an easement to ensure access to solar radiation. It must be created in writing and is subject to the same conveyancing and instrument recording requirements as other easements on real property.

Contact: County clerk and recorder
Topic: Solar Easements
Citation: 70-17-401 et seq. MCA

A wind easement is an interest in real property to ensure access to wind. A property owner may grant a wind easement in the same manner and with the same effect as the conveyance of an interest in real property. The wind easement runs with the real property on and over which the wind resource flows and may not be severed from the property. A wind easement doesn’t affect rights belonging to or the dominance of the mineral estate. It is not an easement or grant of right of way for transmission lines.

Contact: County clerk and recorder

Ethanol and Biodiesel Incentives

Topic: Use of Ethanol-Blended Fuel By State Vehicles
Citation: 2-17-414 MCA

All branches of state government and state institutions of higher education owning or operating a motor vehicle capable of burning ethanol-blended fuel shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that those vehicles use ethanol-blended fuel if that fuel is commercially available and competitively priced.

Contact: Individual agencies and institutions
Topic: Property Tax Exemption for Ethanol Production Facilities and Canola Seed Oil Processing Facilities
Citation: 15-6-220 MCA

All manufacturing machinery, fixtures, equipment, and tools used for the production of ethanol from grain during the course of the construction of an ethanol manufacturing facility and for 10 years after initial production of ethanol from the facility are exempt from property taxes. Machinery and equipment used in a canola seed oil processing facility are exempt from property taxes.

Contact: State property tax exemption forms are available at the Department of Revenue’s county office

"Clean and Green" Property Tax Incentives

In 2007, the Legislature passed House Bill 3 (May special session) that established property tax incentives to encourage energy projects with less environmental impact than conventional facilities. The “Clean and Green” incentives come in three forms.

First, certain facilities and equipment (included in the list below) can be classified as either Class 14 or Class 15 Property (15-6-157 and 15-6-158, MCA). These classes are taxed at 3 percent of market value; previously, these facilities may have been taxed at a higher percent of their market value. To qualify for the 3 percent tax rate, the standard prevailing wages for heavy construction must be paid during construction and some other qualifications may also apply.

Second, high-voltage direct-current converter stations that are constructed in a location and manner so that the station can direct power to two different regional power grids can be classified as Class 16 property. Class 16 property is taxed at 2.25 percent of market value.

Third, a subset of Class 14, 15, and 16 properties are eligible for a property tax abatement of 50 percent for up to 19 years (15-24-3101 et seq. MCA). This abatement applies to all mills levied against the qualifying facility or equipment. For qualifying clean advanced coal research and development equipment or for renewable energy research and development equipment, only the first $1 million of the value receives the abatement.

The Department of Environmental Quality must certify that certain transmission lines, carbon dioxide pipelines and liquid fuel pipelines qualify as Class 14 or 15 property. The Department also certifies any facility or equipment seeking the property tax abatement. A taxpayer starts the process by filling out the appropriate application. Projects eligible for these property tax classifications and abatements are likely to have unique characteristics, so a follow-up interview or inspection may be necessary.

Rules setting the framework for “Clean and Green” certification are at ARM 17.80.201 and 17.80.202. Rules for alternating current transmission lines are at ARM 17.80.203 and ARM 17.80.225. Rules for carbon dioxide pipelines are at ARM 17.80.204. Rules for enhanced oil recovery equipment are at ARM 17.80.205-206. Once the property is certified, the Department of Revenue applies and administers the property tax just as with any other facility. DOR rules are ARM 42.4.4114 and 42.4.4115.

For additional information, contact:
Dan Lloyd

For CO2 pipelines and enhanced oil recovery equipment, contact:
Dave Aguirre
(406)-782-2689, Ext. 205

AC Transmission Line Certification Form        

CO2 Pipeline Tax Certification Form

Closed-Loop Enhanced Oil Recovery Tax Certification Form        

Clean and Green Certification Form      

Types of facilities that may qualify for "Clean and Green" incentives:

  • biodiesel production facility
  • biogas production facility
  • biomass gasification facility
  • coal gasification facility that sequesters carbon dioxide
  • ethanol production facility
  • geothermal generating facility
  • integrated gasification combined cycle facility that sequesters carbon dioxide
  • a natural gas combined cycle facility
  • transmission lines and associated equipment and structures, including interconnections and converter stations
  • equipment used to capture and to prepare for transport carbon dioxide that will be sequestered or injected for the purpose of enhancing the recovery of oil and gas
  • carbon dioxide pipelines for the transportation of carbon dioxide for the purposes of sequestration or for use in closed-loop enhanced oil recovery operations
  • carbon sequestration equipment
  • equipment used in closed-loop enhanced oil recovery operations
  • qualified pipelines, including pumping and compression equipment, carrying “green” fuels.
  • all property or a portion of the property of a renewable energy manufacturing facility
  • research and development equipment for clean advanced coal or renewable energy technologies

Other Incentive Programs

The state has a variety of programs to encourage business activity. Some of these could apply to renewable energy businesses. Visit Department of Commerce's website for more information.