Montana PSC requires NorthWestern to negotiate solar deals

The Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) voted 3-2 last month to temporarily suspend the qualifying facility (QF) standard rate available to new small solar projects, requiring NorthWestern Energy instead to negotiate contracts with any proposed solar facilities of 100 kilowatts to 3 MW in size.

“Our action today to protect NorthWestern Energy’s customers from unreasonably priced solar power is a compromise that still allows solar energy development to continue across the state.” PSC Chairman Brad Johnson, R-East Helena, said in a June 16 news release.

On May 17, NorthWestern Energy submitted an “emergency request” to the Commission, asking for the suspension of the current QF-1 standard rate available to solar projects of 100 kilowatts to 3 megawatts in size, citing a deluge of proposed projects that could generate significant additional costs for their customers.

The Montana Consumer Counsel agreed with NorthWestern’s concerns about consumer impact, stating in comments submitted to the Commission: “The long-term risk of harm to customers justifies granting the relief requested by NorthWestern.”

NorthWestern Energy submitted testimony to the commission estimating that anticipated small solar projects could create over $215 million in additional costs to their customers over the next 25 years if the PSC didn’t suspended the current rate of $66 per megawatt hour.

To view NorthWestern’s 2016 QF-1 rate application, visit: http://1.usa.gov/1tsVf4Q.

NWE is a unit of NorthWestern Corp. (NYSE: NWE).

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.