Missoula, Bozeman and Helena continue pursuit of green tariff, but seeking alternatives
Missoula has decided to extend its contract with the project’s consultant and give extra cash one year after officially establishing a collaborative agreement to collaborate with NorthWestern Energy to develop a green tariff.
The tariff would be the first in Montana; however, Diana Maneta, the county’s energy conservation and sustainability coordinator has said that the process takes longer than intended.
“This results in an extension of the contract’s expiration date due to no fault of the consultant,” Maneta said on Tuesday. “The process of designing the green tariff has taken longer than we had expected,” says the author.
It was in February of this year that the cities of Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena, as well as their respective counties, reached an agreement with Energy Strategies of Salt Lake City to hire them as consultants after conducting a national search for a firm with experience in designing utility rates and green tariffs.
Under the terms of the agreement, Energy Strategies would collaborate with NorthWestern on the development of the tariff to assist the three cities in their pursuit of obtaining 100 percent sustainable power by 2030.
When the contract was initially approved, local authorities said NorthWestern had shown “a great deal of transparency” in its willingness to collaborate with the consultant on the tariff development. Maneta did not provide specifics on how that effort was progressing. Still, he did say that the extra funds would assist Missoula and its partners in exploring options if the tariff did not materialize.
Each of Missoula’s municipal and county governments will make a separate $10,000 contribution to the project.
If the green tariff initiative fails, “the extra funds will enable the consultants to study alternate options for Missoula County and our partners to achieve our near 100 percent clean power targets,” she said. Additionally, the green price alone would not be sufficient to get us to a 100 percent clean power supply.
The Montana Public Service Commission authorized NorthWestern to begin a stakeholder process to implement a green tariff in the spring of 2019. Those provisions were included in a settlement deal reached between the power company and several other parties, including Walmart, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and the Montana Consumer Counsel.
A green tariff enables consumers of regulated utilities to purchase electricity from newly created renewable energy sources at a discounted cost or taxation via a special rate or surcharge. This might be critical in helping Missoula achieve its 100 percent clean power by the target date.
Commissioner Josh Slotnick expressed his delight that “alternatives” are being considered in a statement.