Public Encouraged to Comment on Draft Plan to Advance County, City Clean Electricity Goal

Missoula County and the City of Missoula today released a draft Implementation Plan that identifies collaborative projects to advance the city and county’s goal of 100% clean electricity for the Missoula urban area by 2030.

The city and county developed the plan with NorthWestern Energy in accordance with a memorandum of understanding signed by the three entities last year. The draft plan includes several projects to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency in the state. Among these are the development of a “green tariff,” which will give NorthWestern Energy customers the choice to purchase power from newly developed solar or wind farms; a community solar project in the Missoula area; and pilots of new rate structures that have the potential to facilitate the transition to a clean, modern electric grid.

The county and city invite input from the public on the draft plan. The document is available for review at https://www.engagemissoula.com/missoulas-100-clean-electricity-initiative. Comments on the draft plan are requested by 5 p.m. Monday, March 1. There will be an additional opportunity for public comment once the plan is scheduled for consideration at a meeting of the city council and board of county commissioners.

“Our 100% clean electricity goal was driven by our obligation to address climate change in order to protect our public health, safety and quality of life in Missoula County,” Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said. “This Implementation Plan is an essential step toward that goal.”

The county and city jointly established the goal of 100% clean electricity in 2019, and subsequently signed an MOU with NorthWestern Energy committing the three entities to work together to pursue that goal. The MOU also committed the three entities to develop an Implementation Plan and to report on progress annually.

All the projects identified in the plan will require the collaborative efforts of NorthWestern Energy, Missoula County, the City of Missoula and other stakeholders, and some will also require approval by the Montana Public Service Commission.

“The projects identified in this plan have great potential to accelerate the shift to a cleaner electric grid,” Missoula City Council President Bryan von Lossberg said. “However, they aren’t enough on their own, to reach 100% clean electricity. We look forward to advancing these projects with NorthWestern Energy while also actively seeking additional partners and opportunities to achieve our goal.”

Missoula County, Missoula, Bozeman and Helena Partner in 100% Clean Electricity Effort

Missoula County, the City of Missoula, the City of Bozeman and the City of Helena this week entered into an interlocal agreement pledging to pursue a green tariff to advance their shared clean energy goals. Over the past two years, all four local governments have adopted resolutions committing to 100% clean electricity by 2030. 

The interlocal agreement authorizes the four local governments to jointly hire a consultant with technical expertise in green tariffs and utility rate design to work collaboratively with NorthWestern Energy and inform the development of a green tariff that most effectively advances the local governments’ 100% clean electricity goals. All four local governments had previously allocated funds in their FY21 budgets to support this effort. 

A green tariff is not a tax. Rather, it is a mechanism by which customers of regulated utilities have the option to buy power from newly developed renewable energy sources through a special rate (or “tariff”) on their utility bills. In 2019, the Montana Public Service Commission directed NorthWestern Energy to initiate a stakeholder process to explore the development of a green tariff. This stakeholder process is currently underway, and Missoula County and the cities of Missoula, Bozeman and Helena are participating in it.  

The Missoula City Council approved the interlocal agreement on Feb. 1; the Bozeman City Commission on Feb. 2; the Missoula Board of County Commissioners on Feb. 4; and the Helena City Commission on Feb. 8. 

Elected officials from all four local governments expressed enthusiasm for the partnership. 

Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier: “We’re so pleased to be partnering with the cities of Missoula, Bozeman and Helena. The green tariff is an important step in the right direction, but it’s only the first step. I look forward to our partnership continuing beyond this interlocal agreement as we continue to pursue our shared 100% clean electricity goals.” 

Missoula City Council President Bryan von Lossberg: “It is eminently clear that Montanans value clean energy. And anyone looking forward sees we have the innovative expertise and resources to meet that vision. We invite other communities to join our collaborative effort to build the statewide energy portfolio Montana’s future demands.”  

Bozeman City Commissioner Terry Cunningham: “Bozeman’s ability to meet its stated goals is dependent upon a rapid transition to renewable energy sources by the utility. Together, our communities represent about a quarter of NorthWestern’s customers, and this partnership is our best chance to exert the collective influence that will be required to facilitate this transition.”  

Helena City Commissioner Sean Logan: “This agreement represents a novel and promising approach to advancing clean energy in Montana. We are optimistic that this historic collaboration between the communities and NorthWestern Energy will deliver important environmental and economic benefits to the citizens of our state.”