Federal Commission Says Montana Isn't Enforcing Federal Rules - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Federal Commission Says Montana Isn't Enforcing Federal Rules

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BOZEMAN -

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said Thursday the Montana Public Service Commission and NorthWestern Energy have not been enforcing federal renewable energy regulations.

The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) requires energy companies to buy renewable energy from qualifying facilities, such as wind and solar farms.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released a declaration Thursday saying the Montana Public Service Commission's current rules contradict those federal policies.

Now the Montana Public Service Commission requires those qualifying facilities to win a competitive solicitation bid to sell energy to energy companies.

Michael Uda, who represents those companies, said this bidding process has left green energy development at a standstill.

"It really left Montana renewables with no real way to construct, build, finance their projects so it has kept development of renewables in Montana at a standstill," said Uda.

Many renewable energy companies in Montana feel NorthWestern Energy hasn't offered enough bids and the state commission hasn't been enforcing PURPA rules, so they filed a complaint in June with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Uda said there are some companies that do get contracts, but not enough to remain viable.

"The problem was you couldn't get a long term contract because the way the commission had set it up so there was never an opportunity to obtain a long term contract," said Uda.

NorthWestern Energy spokesman Butch Larcombe said the energy company does buy energy from wind farms across the state.

NorthWestern even owns its own wind farm near Great Falls.

Larcombe said when they do ask for bids for renewable energy, many companies don't get contracts because the way NorthWestern looks at the proposals.

"We look at the cost of electricity that would be produced by these projects," said Larcombe.  "It is our concern that some of these projects, while they may be good for the wind developers are not going to be good for our rate payers."

Larcombe said NorthWestern Energy is waiting to see if the Montana Public Service Commission will make changes to its current policy based to today's declaration.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said they don't plan on taking any action against the state at this point.

ABC FOX Montana did reach out to the Montana Public Service Commission, but they have yet to return our calls.

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