MTPR

NorthWestern Energy

A 2005 state law requires Montana utilities to buy a total of 75 megawatts of energy from small-scale, locally owned producers of renewable electricity from wind, solar, and hydro sources.
(PD)

Montana’s largest utility provider announced Wednesday it is looking for small-scale renewable energy projects that it’s required by law to buy. But utilities and their regulators in Montana say that requirement is outdated, and that the law should be repealed.

May Snowstorm Causes Problems In Western Montana

May 17, 2017
A storm system moving across western and southwestern Montana on Wednesday brought snow to the higher elevations along the Rocky Mountain Front and heavy rain at lower elevations.
Josh Burnham

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A May snowstorm caused power outages and travel issues in western Montana on Wednesday.

The Department of Transportation closed Interstate 90 over Homestake Pass east of Butte due to jackknifed semi-trailers and poor travel conditions due to heavy, wet snow. Travelers were encouraged to take alternate routes.

Montana Capitol.
William Marcus

Montana's utility regulators won a drawn out legislative struggle with the state’s largest utility today. A bill preventing NorthWestern Energy from passing on some its costs to customers cleared the Senate.

NorthWestern Energy truck.
Sue Ginn

Montana’s utility regulators failed Thursday in an attempt to push forward their top priority of the legislative session — changing the law to limit how much of the costs of electricity supply NorthWestern Energy can pass onto its customers.

Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

After supporters of the so-called Solar Jobs and Energy Freedom Act rallied in the state Capitol yesterday in support of more solar energy development, legislation to do so stalled in committee today on a tie vote.

House Bill 504 failed to get enough votes to move out of the House Energy Technology and Federal Relations committee.

Montana's bitterly cold winter is hitting Northwestern Energy customers in the pocketbook.

Spokesman Butch Larcombe says its entire service territory is much colder than normal. Of course that means customers are using a lot more natural gas or electricity to stay warm:

Utility companies say homeowners' solar panels can end up being subsidized by other customers.
(PD)

Legislation introduced Wednesday in the Montana House would require officials to study how renewable energy generators, like solar panels, impact the utility bills of the people who don’t have them.

Solar panels can help trim down the utility bill of homeowners, but some say it shifts that cost onto other utility consumers who don’t have personal energy generators on their home. There’s no consensus on that.

Republican Representative Daniel Zolnikov of Billings
Mike Albans

As more solar panels go up on homes and businesses across the state, lawmakers in Helena are debating the economic incentives for doing so. Buying solar panels isn’t cheap, and it’s an investment that Norman Mullen, who lives in Helena, hopes new legislation can protect.

Legislature To Hear Net-Metering Bill Tuesday

Jan 9, 2017
Legislature To Hear Net-Metering Bill Tuesday
Freddy Monares - Legislative News Service

A legislative committee is considering a bill that would require Montanans who produce their own energy to include advanced technologies that help utility companies manage that electricity.

Groups campaigning for the expansion of renewable energy sources rallied nearly a hundred supporters in front of NorthWestern Energy headquarters in Butte, MT Oct. 10, 2016.
Corin Cates-Carney

  About 100 advocates for renewable energy walked through uptown Butte earlier this week, chanting and thrusting signs in the air. Some protesters kept time on wooden blocks, tambourines and drums, as they walked toward the state headquarters of Montana’s largest utility company, NorthWestern Energy.

The groups 350 Missoula, the Montana Environmental Information Center and Northern Plains Resource Council protested NorthWestern Energy's plan for future electricity supply in front of the utility company's state headquarters in Butte Oct. 10, 2016..
Corin Cates-Carney

Groups campaigning for the expansion of renewable energy sources rallied nearly a hundred supporters in Butte today.

In March of this year NorthWestern Energy released a plan outlining the future of the utility’s electricity supply. Today, the groups 350 Missoula, the Montana Environmental Information Center and Northern Plains Resource Council protested the plan in front of the utility company's state headquarters in Butte.

Groups To Rally For Alternative Energy In Butte

Oct 7, 2016
A 2005 state law requires Montana utilities to buy a total of 75 megawatts of energy from small-scale, locally owned producers of renewable electricity from wind, solar, and hydro sources.
(PD)

On Monday, environmental advocates will protest in front of NorthWestern Energy’s Montana headquarters in Butte. The group 350 Missoula and others say NorthWestern isn’t moving quickly enough towards renewable sources of electricity. The rally is scheduled to start at 11:00 a.m. Monday at Emma Park in Butte, followed by speakers from the Montana Environmental Information Center and other groups in front of NorthWestern Energy’s headquarters.

NorthWestern Energy has requested an $11 million natural gas rate increase. The rate hike requires the approval of the Montana Public Service Commission.
(PD)

NorthWestern Energy has requested an $11 million natural gas rate increase. The rate hike requires the approval of the Montana Public Service Commission.

Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam, formerly Kerr Dam
Bill Barrett (CC-BY-SA-3)


Death and taxes are supposedly two certainties in life. But at the moment, in Lake County, property taxes aren’t so certain.

 

The county is suing the state Department of Revenue over one property -- the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ (say-LISH kuh-ZAHN-kuh kud-LEE-speh) Dam, formerly known as the Kerr Dam, which the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes bought from NorthWestern Energy last year.

 

The sale was negotiated in 1985 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

 

Windmill at the Judith Gap wind farm.
David J. Laporte (CC-BY-2)

A new study says that Montana’s potential for wind energy production is better than that of the Columbia River Gorge, between Oregon and Washington.

Solar Energy Advocates Ask Feds To Reverse Price Suspension
(PD)

This week, Montana’s Environmental Information Center and solar energy advocates asked federal authorities to reverse a state regulator's decision earlier this year that advocates say is killing clean energy jobs.

Mountain Water Company.
Cherie Trusler

The private company that owns Missoula’s city water system got slapped with a financial penalty today.

Our Capitol reporter has details on that, as well as efforts to change how much renewable energy companies can charge customers. Reporter Corin Cates-Carney followed the action and joins us now to fill us in.

Utility companies say homeowners' solar panels can end up being subsidized by other customers.
(PD)

A North Carolina solar energy company says it’s prepared to sue Montana if state utility regulators stick by their decision on how much they can charge for electricity.

NorthWestern Energy is warning customers in the Bitterroot Valley of scam calls requesting immediate payment on overdue bills. 

Solar panel installation.
Wayne National Forest (CC-BY-2)

Montana’s utility regulators took unprecedented action Thursday when they suspended price rates for solar energy. It's a win for NorthWestern Energy, but it could slow growth in Montana’s solar energy industry.

Windmill at the Judith Gap wind farm.
David J. Laporte (CC-BY-2)

A federal law from the 1970s is pushing Montana’s Public Service Commission to act as mediator between large utility companies and small renewable energy providers as they debate the price of electricity.

Coal with the town of Colstrip in the background
Amy Martin

On Monday the operator of the Colstrip power plant said it wants out of its contract to run the coal-burning facility. Pennsylvania-based Talen Energy owns part of the plant and operates the entire facility. The company says it is losing millions of dollars there. Governor Bullock talked with MTPR’s Corin Cates Carney Wednesday.

Governor Steve Bullock met with utility companies and advocates for energy efficiency and low-income Montanans in Missoula Wednesday. It was the second in a series of roundtable discussions on energy Bullock is hosting across the state.

  The CEO of Northwestern energy has accepted Governor Steve Bullock’s offer to be part of a working group on the future ownership of the Colstrip coal-fired power plant.

Bullock made the invitation yesterday, the same day he announced the working group. He says he’s concerned about the future of Colstrip as there’s talk lately about two of the power plant’s out of state co-owners perhaps selling their shares or shutting parts of Colstrip down.

Northwestern CEO Bob Rowe told the Governor his company is willing to participate in the working group.

Colstrip power plant, Montana
Courtesy Montana AFI-CIO

Today Governor Steve Bullock said he wants to convene a "working group" to explore alternative ownership of most of the Colstrip coal-fired electricity plant.

NorthWestern Energy Ordered To Refund Montana Customers $8.2M

Mar 29, 2016
NorthWestern Energy truck.
Sue Ginn

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana regulators on Tuesday ordered NorthWestern Energy to refund customers $8.24 million that the state's largest power company charged when it had to buy electricity on the open market following a 2013 outage of the Colstrip coal plant.

(PD)

Tuesday’s Supreme Court vote to temporarily block the Obama Administration's climate change regulations is receiving praise and criticism in Montana.

Wind, Flooding Problems Across Western Montana

Dec 9, 2015
National Weather Service Missoula, MT

Severe wind and flooding was reported from all across the western parts of the state today. Helena seemed to be hit the hardest with wind.

NorthWestern Energy officials say they won't appeal a big increase in the company's Montana property taxes after last year's $900 million purchase of 11 hydroelectric dams.

Instead, the company's customers will pay for most of the nearly $23 million tax hike.

Colstrip power plant as seen in the early 1980s.
David T. Hanson (CC-BY-SA-2)

A study released Wednesday says that complying with President Obama's Clean Power Plan will cost Montana more than 7,000 jobs and more than $2 billion in wages and sales. Those numbers were quickly trumpeted by Montana elected officials who oppose the nationwide plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, including Attorney General Tim Fox, who has joined Montana to a multi-state lawsuit to halt the plan.

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