NorthWestern Energy files utility electricity plan in Montana

big bend hydro dam, missouri river elp

NorthWestern Energy has submitted its biennial Electricity Supply Resource Procurement Plan to the Montana Public Service Commission. The plan updates the company's ongoing short and long-term plans to provide reliable, cost-effective electricity to its customers in Montana.

"Since the addition of the hydroelectric dams in November 2014, NorthWestern has been working to identify the most cost efficient means of integrating our owned resource portfolio of hydro, wind, coal and natural gas resources in the most optimal way for our customers," said John Hines, vice president of energy supply. "The result is an electricity portfolio that is more than 60-percent carbon free at prices that are well below the national average."

"NorthWestern Energy customers are served by a diverse, hydro-based combination of Montana resources at prices that are among the lowest in the country," added Bob Rowe, president and CEO. "However, we still have capacity needs during times of peak use. Along with optimizing operation of the portfolio to best serve our customers, we will be addressing capacity to meet reliability, regulatory and modest customer growth expectations."

Thanks to the Montana hydro system, the electricity NorthWestern delivers to its customers is already lower in carbon than the EPA's Clean Power Plan target for Montana in 2030. Under the "economically optimal scenario" in NorthWestern's new supply plan, that would further decline.

In addition to meeting peak needs, soon-to-be imposed national reliability standards will require NorthWestern to have even greater generation capacity available and be capable of increasing or decreasing output to address the intermittent nature of generation such as wind.

To address the need for more capacity generation, NorthWestern's economic analyses show that adding natural gas-fired generation is the lowest-cost/least-risk approach for addressing customers' peak demand needs. In addition, NWE has identified potentially adding incremental generation to its hydro capability and will be evaluating this zero carbon alternative during the remainder of 2016.  

The resource supply plan also focuses on the following additional areas:

·      Capacity-based planning and determination of resource adequacy

·      Co-optimization of hydroelectric and thermal resources

·      Optimized new resource selection

·      Additional work concerning the potential to add over 80 MW of zero-carbon generation at the existing hydro facilities.

·      Resource flexibility, dispatch, and ramping capability

·      Cost-effective integrated utility operations and planning

The Electricity Supply Resource Procurement Plan is updated and filed every two years with the MPSC. The plan is meant to provide a road map to NorthWestern's customers and regulators about how NorthWestern plans to respond to future needs. The plan is subject to review and public comment.

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