Universal System Benefits Program

July 30, 2021


Montana established the Universal System Benefits Program (USBP) in 1997 as part of its restructuring legislation. The USBP supports cost-effective energy conservation, low-income customer weatherization, renewable-energy projects and applications, research and development programs related to energy conservation and renewables, market transformation designed to encourage competitive markets for public purpose programs, and low-income energy assistance.

Beginning January 1, 1999, all electric utilities -- including electric cooperatives -- were required to contribute revenue generated from a surcharge on customers' electricity use. In 1997, the surcharge was set through electricity restructuring legislation and was based on 2.4% of electric utilities' 1995 revenues. This surcharge is determined by the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) and by individual electric cooperatives. SB 114, passed in 2015, exempted public utilities with fewer than 50 customers from assessing a charge.

However, the surcharge rate has not been adjusted since that time, so annual collections have increased slightly as utility loads have increased over time. The amount collected annually varies, depending on weather and economic conditions. Utilities may spend all or a portion of the funds on internal programs, or may opt to contract or fund eligible programs externally. Large-scale electricity users with a load exceeding one megawatt (MW) may choose to fund qualifying internal energy programs with monies that otherwise would be remitted to the USBP.

The USBP was set to expire December 31, 2009, but H.B. 27 removed the expiration date and extended the program indefinitely.

Program Overview

Implementing Sector: State
Category: Regulatory Policy
State: Montana
Incentive Type: Public Benefits Fund
Web Site: https://www.energysharemt.com/usb/
Start Date:
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
  • Solar - Passive
  • Solar Water Heat
  • Solar Space Heat
  • Geothermal Electric
  • Solar Thermal Electric
  • Solar Thermal Process Heat
  • Solar Photovoltaics
  • Wind (All)
  • Yes; specific technologies not identified
  • Wind (Small)
Types: Efficiency, conservation, renewable energy, low-income energy assistance, R&D
Total Fund: Approximately $9 million annually
Charge: Surcharge rate based on 2.4% of electric utilities' 1995 revenue


Name: MCA 69-8-402
Date Enacted: 1997
Effective Date: 1/1/1999
Name: MONT. ADMIN. R. 42.29.101 et seq.
Date Enacted: 1999, subsequently amended
Name: SB 11 (2015)
Date Enacted: 02/17/2015


Name: Will Rosquist
Organization: Montana Public Service Commission
Address: 1701 Prospect Avenue
Helena MT 59620-2601
Phone: (406) 444-6359
Email: wrosquist@mt.gov

This information is sourced from DSIRE; the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.