NorthWestern Energy will continue to rely on coal-fired power generation

Although NorthWestern Energy is planning on bringing more renewable power onto its grid and acknowledges the continued push for action on climate change, the company will not be turning its back on coal-fired power generation anytime soon, the utility’s president and CEO said in an interview with the Billings Gazette.

The company, which is Montana’s dominant utility, provides about half the electricity it sells to Montana customers through coal-fired power generation. President and CEO Bob Rowe said the utility has an obligation to provide low cost, reliable power, according to the report.

“Our responsibility is to do what we can to manage the costs for our customers and provide and provide a diversified resource base,” Rowe said in the interview with the Gazette. “With any (power source), you ask what the value is … and make a decision.”

According to the report, the utility is not planning on buying new coal-fired plants or resources, but it is still buying power on contract from coal-fired producers. The company has proposed a 300 MW natural gas-fired facility, and is intending to bring the plant online by 2018.

Rowe said the company is contracting for a new wind project as well, the Gazette reported. Currently, about 15 percent of the electricity provided by the utility is created by renewable energy sources, mostly wind power projects.

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