By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press
The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law last week after it passed the U.S. Senate by the thinnest of margins, has been widely described as the most expansive piece of climate legislation in U.S. history. The measure also reforms health insurance, prescription drug pricing and corporate tax structure, but the provisions that Biden has touted as “the biggest step forward on climate ever” reform the energy sector, largely by creating incentives for corporations, electric cooperatives and individuals to transition to cleaner sources of energy.
In an effort to understand what the IRA means for Montana, a net exporter of energy that supplies power to the grids of surrounding states in addition to Montana businesses and homes, Montana Free Press contacted stakeholders in the state’s energy industry for their read on particularly important pieces of the bill, which will funnel $7 billion into investments in clean power generation and storage into the state by 2030 according to the White House’s analysis.
Montana Environmental Information Center Energy Policy Director Ian Lund said he’d like to see the fee that the federal government will levy on plants like the Laurel Generation Station reflected in NorthWestern’s planning documents that lay out how the company expects to meet demand with the various sources of energy it owns or acquires from other entities — for example, hydropower facilities, solar and wind farms, and the state’s first utility-scale battery project.
“NorthWestern is doing its resource procurement plan right now, and all of its cost assumptions have been locked in, but were essentially made obsolete by the passage of this bill,” Lund said. “The cost of solar, wind, batteries and even nuclear, is going to be much lower than what they currently have on there. On the other side, the methane rule will make a gas plant more expensive.”
Lund said MEIC is planning to submit a letter to NorthWestern asking it to incorporate the methane fee and investment incentives in its upcoming electricity supply plan, which the company is expected to release this fall.