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Montana regulators prepare for evaluation of NWE resource plan

The four stacks of the Colstrip coal fired power plant seen from a distance through a chain link fence.
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
The Colstrip Steam Electric Station pictures on Oct. 2, 2020.

Montana electric utility regulators are hiring a consultant to review NorthWestern Energy’s electric generation plan, which outlines its 20-year road map for meeting customers’ electric needs.

Montana Public Service Commissioners discussed a call for applications at their meeting Tuesday. NorthWestern Energy, Montana’s largest utility with nearly 400,000 electric customers locally, has yet to submit its triennial resource plan.

PSC staff member Will Rosquist said the final draft was originally expected in December, but NorthWestern Energy delayed its submission, “in order to account for some new information on capacity contributions from NorthWestern’s resources under the Western Resource Adequacy Program.”

The newly-approved program allows member utilities in the West to share electric generation and other resources. It addresses western utilities’ need to plan for longterm electric supply stability during a time of extreme weather events like drought, the onboarding of more renewable energy and the retirement of traditional fuels like coal.

NorthWestern Energy has said it meets 40% of its customers’ peak demand by buying energy on the open market and it needs more baseload power in the form of fossil fuels like natural gas. It joined the Western Resource Adequacy Program last year.

According to PSC staff, NorthWestern Energy is expected to submit its resource plan by the end of the month.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.