Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Two years have passed since the cities of Missoula and Bozeman, along with Missoula County, hired a consultant to help guide their work to adopt a green tariff in partnership with Northwestern Energy.

Saying the work has shown progress but remains unfinished, members of the City Council this week approved an extension to the original contract and the funding to cover it.

“It gives us the time to look at this agreement and discuss what more robust agreements are needed to continue through to the next steps of this work,” said Evora Glenn, the city's climate and sustainability specialist. “This renewable rate option is our program to secure new renewable energy for our community in alignment with our clean electricity goals.”

The project's three partners in 2021 hired Energy Strategies LLC to help inform the development of a green tariff, or renewable rate option as it's now being referred to. Helena was a partner initially but has since backed out of the project, Glenn said.

Initially, the work included a $90,000 commitment from Bozeman and $20,000 from the city and county of Missoula. The expanded time frame will add $65,000 to the work with $55,000 coming from the city and county of Missoula.

“It's funds we've already allocated in those budget seasons (2022 and 2023) to the Climate Action Team's 100% clean electricity work,” said Glenn. “This is a way for us to meet our equitable share in the costs of moving forward with this consultant.”

Under the contract, Energy Strategies will continue working with NorthWestern in developing the tariff, which the utility company has been open to, project partners have said. A green tariff would allow customers of regulated utilities to buy power from newly developed renewable energy sources through a special rate, or tariff.

If created, approved and adopted, the renewable rate option would be the first of its kind in Montana, though it's common in other states. The tariff is needed to help Missoula and Bozeman move closer to their goals of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2030.

“This is good work. I know they've made a lot of progress and this is what we need to do to get from Point A to Point B,” said City Council member Gwen Jones.