Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Two years after formally adopting a joint agreement to work with NorthWestern Energy on developing a green tariff, the City of Missoula on Wednesday extended the effort for another six months.

Few updates have been provided on the tariff's progress, but city leaders remain optimistic. It represents a joint collaboration between Missoula, the county and Bozeman.

“This collaboration is critical to achieving the goals that we have,” said council member Amber Sherrill.

The partners, which initially included Helena, entered into an agreement to hire Energy Strategies of Salt Lake City in February 2021 to pursue what would represent Montana's first green tariff. The city extended that contract last February for another year.

Wednesday's unanimous vote extends the interlocal agreement binding the effort for another six months. It carries no financial impacts.

“While our work continues, our initial contract is set to expire this month, unless extended,” said Evora Glenn, the city's energy programs specialist. “The communities would like to extend this agreement while preparing for a more robust renewal of this interlocal agreement that can take us through the next phases of our 100% clean electricity work.”

The tariff is needed to help Missoula, Bozeman and Missoula County 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. However, neither the city nor county has offered many updates on their progress over the last two years.

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 would allow customers of regulated utilities to buy power from newly developed renewable energy sources through a special rate, or tariff. Doing so is key if Missoula is to achieve 100% clean electricity by the targeted date.

Helena, which was part of the initial collaboration, has since backed out, Glenn said on Wednesday.