Energy developers and utility companies met in the state Capitol Friday to discuss Montana’s energy future. As the energy market changes, and some lawmakers and customers demand less carbon emitting power, energy companies are looking at how renewable energy will grow in Montana.
More than a dozen major energy market players from around Montana and the West sat at a table in Helena Friday to explore the potential of renewable resources.
Governor Steve Bullock kicked off the meeting with an opening statement. He said the energy world is changing.
"As governor and as a dad I have the responsibility to address climate change, and to do so in a way that works for Montana. And we know in Montana that climate change is happening. We see it. We’re outdoors people. Climate change affects our everyday lives from our extreme wildfires, lower stream flows, unpredictable weather, crop change."
The governor’s office partnered with a federal Pacific Northwest energy nonprofit to bring the energy sector leaders together.
In the coming decade, parts of one of the largest coal-fired power plants west of the Mississippi is going offline. Colstrip units 1 and 2 will close in 2022. The loss of that power production could open up space on power transmission lines to carry new forms of energy in Montana and to west coast customers.
Bonneville Power Administration also sponsored the meeting Friday. Administer Elliot Mainzer says now is the time to consider what options and barriers will allow Montana to tap into other energy resources - especially Montana wind.
"This is something we really need to pay attention to. And I think many of us feel, for a variety of reasons, that the potential has still not been fully realized," Mainzer says.
The Renewable Energy and Transmission group expects to release recommendations and plans for navigating future energy development in Montana, next June.