Montana Environmental Information Center

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Coal Plant Closures Continue – Montana Should Plan for the Inevitable

by Derf Johnson

Coal plant closure announcements in the United States continue unabated, regardless of Donald Trump. Coal is increasingly becoming a financial albatross for utilities and their customers and shareholders as clean, renewable energy continues to drop in prices and further penetrate the market. What’s truly remarkable is that these retirements are almost entirely financially driven. The old narrative that coal is cheap and renewables are expensive is just simply not true. Just this past week:

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What does the repeal of the Clean Power Plan mean for Montana?

August 21, 2018

A sample of what we can expect: Read More →

Tell NorthWestern Energy: Protect Customers and Invest in Clean Energy

Tell NorthWestern Energy: Protect Customers and Invest in Clean Energy

To: Bob Rowe, President and CEO, NorthWestern Energy

As NorthWestern Energy prepares for its upcoming electric rate case, and the creation of its next Resource Procurement Plan, I urge you to prepare for:

• The inevitable closure of the Colstrip Generating Station;
• Aiding clean-up and transition of the Colstrip community; and
• Meeting NorthWestern’s future energy needs with clean energy and energy efficiency.

Puget Sound Energy, a co-owner of Colstrip Units 3 & 4, intends to fully depreciate its investment in the plant by 2027. Co-owner Avista is adopting the same schedule. NorthWestern should also depreciate (aka write off) its investment in Colstrip by 2027, to protect its customers from having to pay for a shuttered facility that generates no electricity. In addition, NorthWestern should contribute, as other utilities have done, to a clean-up plan for the plant, and provide transition funding for the Colstrip community and the plant’s workers.

Signed,

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Every two years, Montana’s largest private utility NorthWestern Energy is required to produce a Resource Procurement Plan—a blueprint for how to meet expected energy demand over the next 20 years. This plan helps guide the utility, as well as its regulators at the Public Service Commission and other stakeholders, on what to do when important decisions need to be made, such as what kind of power plants to build and when.

NorthWestern’s next Resource Procurement Plan is due in December 2018.

Sign the petition today asking NorthWestern to protect its customers from coal risks and to invest in clean energy!

The 2018 Resource Procurement Plan

In the 2018 plan, NorthWestern needs to prepare for the closure of Colstrip by 2027 or earlier.

NorthWestern owns a 30% share of Colstrip Unit 4. Currently, every other owner of Unit 4 has either agreed, proposed, or is required by law to pay off their outstanding Colstrip debt (aka “depreciate”) by 2027 or 2030, meaning they will be financially ready to close the plant by that time. In contrast, NorthWestern’s depreciation schedule is 2042. If Colstrip closes before NorthWestern has paid off its share of the plant, customers will be stuck paying for a power plant that is not producing electricity. This makes it extremely important that as NorthWestern plans for the future, it protect its customers by depreciating its outstanding Colstrip debt by 2027.

Therefore, in the 2018 Resource Procurement Plan, NorthWestern should prepare for this eventuality by modeling a scenario in which Colstrip closes by 2027.

 

 

 

 

What Should NorthWestern Do?

In the 2018 plan – and in future regulatory processes like the coming electric rate case – NorthWestern needs to protect its customers by preparing for Colstrip’s closure, including:

  • Modeling a 2027 closure date for Colstrip in the 2018 resource plan.
  • Planning to meet future energy needs with clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • Depreciating NorthWestern’s ownership of Colstrip by 2027 to protect customers just as other Colstrip owners have done.
  • Set aside money to clean up polluted groundwater and help community transition in Colstrip just as other Colstrip owners have done.

 Renewable Energy is Extremely Cost Competitive for NorthWestern Customers

Renewable energy such as wind and solar are the cheapest, cleanest, and least-risk generation options for the utility to meet its future electricity demand. In fact, the South Peak and Judith Gap wind facilities are the two cheapest power plants for NorthWestern customers. In contrast, coal-fired electricity from Colstrip is one of the most expensive sources of electricity for NorthWestern customers.

 

 

 

End Perpetual Pollution, Vote YES on I-186

by Derf Johnson

Do you want to finally protect Montana’s clean water from perpetually polluting hardrock mines? Then now is the time to support I-186.

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Former Montana Public Service Commissioner says state’s energy future bright

Former Montana Public Service Commissioner Tom Schneider writes in the Great Falls Tribune: “Montana’s energy future is bright…if we seize upon it!” Read More →

New Report a Big Step Forward for Montana’s Renewable Energy Future

Montana Renewables Development Action Plan Read More →

It Turns Out Colstrip Electricity is Expensive – Really, Really Expensive

by Anne Hedges

Raise your hand if you want to pay a lot more for energy that’s dirty.

Let’s talk money.

It’s tiring to hear people repeat the same argument they’ve made since the 1970’s without bothering to update their facts. Namely, “We need coal power because it’s so cheap.” The old argument goes that if we transition off of coal-fired power our bills will skyrocket. Forget the arguments on climate change and the cost that it imposes on society. Let’s just talk about the raw numbers of what we pay for electricity.

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Solar Study’s Findings Suspicious, in Need of Further Review

Montana’s largest private utility, NorthWestern Energy, recently released a benefit-cost study of distributed solar (i.e. rooftop solar) on its grid. The study was meant to clarify key questions about these solar systems, however initial review reveals that the findings appear questionable and its work will need to be checked for validity. Until this can be done, the study’s findings remain in doubt. Read More →

Press Release: BLM’s methane waste rule back in force following court decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 23, 2018 Read More →

Citizens Hearing: Speak Out Against Massive Coal Mine Expansion

Thank you everyone who made it out to the Citizens Hearing on February 15th in Missoula. If you were unable to attend and would still like to submit comments please use the following DEQ webform to do so. 

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