Community Action Agency’s Corner
Date: May 1, 2023
Butte, Mont. – May 1, 2023 – The major risk identified for NorthWestern Energy’s Montana customers in the 2023 electric Integrated Resource Plan, continues to be an overreliance on an uncertain energy market to meet peak energy demand.
“Real-world experiences, including the Arctic blast in December with multiple days of record setting cold in Montana, indicate that risks to affordable and reliable energy service for customers are increasing due to changes in the energy market,” said NorthWestern Energy Vice President Supply and Montana Government Affairs John Hines. “Our Montana customers set a new peak demand and 41% of the electricity powering their homes, businesses and critical services was imported at high prices from out-of-state on the grid.”
With traditional generation resources, such as coal plants, being retired across the West, the risk continues to increase that the energy market may not have enough electricity available when it is needed the most to meet our Montana customers’ peak energy demands.
The Integrated Resource Plan is an analysis of energy industry conditions and evaluation of different potential generation resource portfolios that would meet the needs of our Montana customers over a 20-year horizon,
The plan is revised every three years to include changes in energy policy, demand and technology, as well as other development in the energy industry.
The plan evaluates a number of resources, modeling with generic costs and characteristics that would provide on-demand energy generation needed by our Montana customers, including for the first time small modular reactor nuclear plants. Solar and wind generation, battery and pumped hydro storage and natural gas plants are also modeled, as well as the federal Inflation Reduction Act tax credits for renewable energy projects.
“The plan is not a recommendation of any resource type or mix of resources,” said NorthWestern Energy Manager Energy Supply Planning Steve Schmitt. “But it does identify what is needed to continue our obligation to provide reliable, safe energy to customers at the most affordable rates for the next two decades.”
Regardless of what the plan’s modeling indicates, an all-resource competitive solicitation, overseen by a third party, is the likely approach to acquiring any projects and/or resources to address the 24/7, on-demand shortfalls, overreliance on energy markets, and insufficient flexible generation.
“In Montana, the preferred process for regulated energy companies is to issue a request for proposals for generation resources, the exception being opportunity resources, such as the Montana hydro facilities, that become available,” said NorthWestern Energy Director Long-Term Planning Bleau LaFave. “The request for proposals process is used to select cost-effective resources that will best meet the needs of customers. The capability of resources and projects, not the type, would be evaluated.”
For more information about NorthWestern Energy’s 2023 Montana Electric Integrated Resource Plan, go to NorthWesternEnergy.com/Montana2023IRP
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NorthWestern Energy - Delivering a Bright Future
NorthWestern Energy provides essential energy infrastructure and valuable services that enrich lives and empower communities while serving as long-term partners to our customers and communities. We work to deliver safe, reliable, and innovative energy solutions that create value for customers, communities, employees, and investors. We do this by providing low-cost and reliable service performed by highly-adaptable and skilled employees. We provide electricity and / or natural gas to approximately 764,200 customers in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Yellowstone National Park. We have provided service in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1923 and in Montana since 2002.
Jo Dee Black