Jonathan Ambarian

HELENA (KPAX) — Montana regulators are taking public input on a new plan from NorthWestern Energy, laying out how the utility plans to meet the state’s energy needs over the next 20 years.

In May, NorthWestern submitted its 2023 Integrated Resource Plan. The company is required to put together a similar plan every three years.

John Hines, NorthWestern’s vice president of supply and Montana government affairs, said the company is focused on maintaining and improving reliability in electrical service for their customers in Montana, and the plan will help them do that.

“It's a very high-level look and it defines what our needs are,” he said.

Hines says it’s becoming harder for NorthWestern to meet the demand for electricity during extreme weather with its current generating resources – forcing them to buy power on the open market to close the gap.

“What's changing is the lack of resources during those critical weather events,” he said. “We are not able to go out to the market as easily. It's much, much, much more expensive when we do go out.”

He said the company is taking steps to increase its capacity, including acquiring a larger stake in the energy from the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip and building the Yellowstone County Generating Station, a natural-gas-fired plant currently under construction near Laurel.

The Integrated Resource Plan includes modeling of how various different types of generating resources might perform over the coming years.

“The modeling suggests that the best-fit resources to address our portfolio’s needs are flexible natural gas generation and energy storage (pumped hydro),” it reads. ‘These resources are best suited to address the characteristics of our portfolio generally being energy long and capacity short. The economics and longer duration characteristics of these resources were selected over short-duration resources like batteries.”

The Montana Public Service Commission is holding a series of public hearings on the Integrated Resource Plan:

· Monday, Aug. 14, 6 p.m., at the Great Falls Civic Center, 2 Park Drive S
· Tuesday, Aug. 15, 12 p.m., at the PSC offices, 1701 Prospect Ave. in Helena
· Wednesday, Aug. 16, 6 p.m., at the Board of Oil & Gas Conservation headquarters, 2535 St. Johns Ave. in Billings
· Thursday, Aug. 17, 6 p.m., at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, 17 W. Quartz St.
· Tuesday, Aug. 22, 6 p.m., at the Missoula College Learning Center, 1205 E. Broadway St.

You can also submit written public comment to the PSC through Aug. 28, by mail to 1701 Prospect Ave., P.O. Box 202601, Helena, MT 59620-2601, or by email to