One year after formally adopting a joint agreement to work with NorthWestern Energy on developing a green tariff, the city and county of Missoula have agreed to extend their contract with the project's consultant and provide additional funding.

If realized, the tariff would be the first of its kind in Montana, though the county's energy conservation and sustainability coordinator Diana Maneta said it's taking longer than expected.

“This extends the end-date of the contract through no fault of the consultant,” Maneta said on Tuesday. “The process of developing the green tariff has taken longer than initially anticipated.”

Last February, the cities of Missoula, Bozeman and Helena and their respective counties entered into an agreement to hire Energy Strategies of Salt Lake City after a national search for a consultant with expertise in designing utility rates and green tariffs.

Under the contract, Energy Strategies would work with NorthWestern in developing the tariff – a move intended to help the three cities move closer to their goals of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2030.

When the contract was first adopted, local officials said NorthWestern had expressed “a lot of openness” in working with the consultant on the tariff. Maneta didn't detail how that effort was going but said the additional funding would help Missoula and its partners explore alternatives if the tariff didn't materialize.

The city and county of Missoula will each contribute an additional $10,000 to the project.

“The additional funding allows the consultants to investigate alternative approaches for Missoula County and our partners to near 100% clean electricity goals in case the green tariff effort isn't successful,” she said. “Also, the green tariff alone wouldn't get us all the way to 100% clean electricity.”

In 2019, the Montana Public Service Commission directed NorthWestern to initiate a stakeholder process to initiate a green tariff. That order was part of a settlement agreement between the power company and several other groups including Walmart, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Montana Consumer Council.

A green tariff allows customers of regulated utilities to buy power from newly developed renewable energy sources through a special rate, or tariff. Doing so could be key to Missoula's goals of achieving 100% clean electricity by the target date.

“I'm personally excited that alternatives are being explored,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick.