Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Members of the Missoula City Council took the first step Wednesday in approving a term sheet that will guide an agreement with NorthWestern Energy and Montana's first green tariff.

The term sheet also includes the city of Bozeman and Missoula County and will serve as the framework for how the Green Power Program will work moving forward.

“We're at an important first step,” said City Council member Amber Sherrill. “There will be many more steps after this.”

The city and county of Missoula, along with Bozeman, have all adopted goals of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2030. While Missoula has taken steps in pursuit of that goal, adopting the Green Power Program may be needed to be fully compliant.

Evora Glenn, the city's climate and sustainability specialist, said the development of new clean energy will be key to the program. Solar or wind generating projects would be built to serve the program and be large enough “to provide clean electricity to NorthWestern Energy commercial customers and hundreds of residential customers.”

The size of the project would be determined by how much energy participants are willing to purchase over the life of the energy project, or around 25 years. Residential customers will have a chance to subscribe after local government.

While the term sheet marks new progress in the years-long effort, other steps remain. That includes winning approval from the Montana Public Service Commission.

“If the term sheet is adopted, the lead communities will consider a binding agreement to submit to the PSC,” said Glenn. “The PSC will need to approve the program before it's available to the public.”

Once the PSC gives approval, Glenn said the lead partners in the project, including NorthWestern, will solicit proposals for a new renewable energy project.

“By subscribing to the program, customers would pay the cost of the new renewable energy source over time and receive the benefits it produces,” the city said, naming reduced carbon emissions and the clean energy's economic value on the market.

The city and county will hold a joint meeting on Dec. 11 to consider approving the term sheet and beginning the next steps.