Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Bozeman, other local governments lead clean energy effort

BOZEMAN, Mont. — Officials from three cities in Montana have united in pushing for more renewable energy sources in the state.

The local governments in Bozeman, Missoula and Helena started an effort to establish a subscriber-based green tariff program with NorthWestern Energy, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.

The program would require the utility to offer more renewable energy sources that customers can choose as their electricity source for a special rate, officials said.

Helena and Missoula have a goal to reach 100% clean electricity by 2030. Bozeman would join the effort if commissioners approve the city’s climate plan on Tuesday.

Bozeman sustainability program manager Natalie Meyer said the shared goal shows a “degree of unity around a common desire for renewable energy,” but the cities cannot do it alone since electricity options are limited. NorthWestern Energy provides nearly all of the electricity for Bozeman, Helena and Missoula.

Environmental groups have criticized the company for what they say is an insufficient emissions reduction goal and now terminated plans to expand operations at Colstrip power plant.

The utility has agreed to the clean electricity resolution as a result. “It’s a way that we can be responsive to our customer’s needs in the way that they desire to be served,” utility sustainability manager John Bushnell said.

Bushnell said the next step is to work with an advisory group, then determine how big the renewable energy resource will need to be to accommodate the new subscribers. The utility must then work out internally how the program would work, and look for someone to provide the renewable energy sources.

The program would still need approval from the Public Service Commission, which could take months, Bushnell said, adding that the program would be filed to the commission likely in 2022.

Democratic state Rep. Chris Pope said he expects Montana cities like Bozeman to lead the way on a statewide transition to renewable energy.

The cities’ sustainability coordinators said they hope their local work will contribute to a statewide shift to clean energy.

“I think at the local level is where true change has to start,” Pope said. “This is not to be forced down from the state level on high.”

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