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RNP Press Release
June 14, 2017

BPA proposes to retain Montana Intertie Rate despite broad support for eliminating the controversial transmission fee

Misses opportunity to help Montana diversify its energy export mix beyond coal

PORTLAND, Oregon – Late yesterday, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) issued a Draft Record of Decision in its biannual transmission rate case that retains the burdensome Montana Intertie transmission rate. The decision retains a barrier to getting Montana’s high value wind delivered to west coast customers and helping Montana generate new, renewable energy jobs.

The Montana Intertie transmission rate is a unique transmission rate that is charged for the first 90 miles of BPA-owned transmission along the Colstrip Transmission System, roughly between Townsend and Garrison, Montana. The Montana Intertie transmission rate only applies to 200MW of the approximately 1,900MW of transmission capacity capable of flowing across the Colstrip Transmission System.

The Montana Intertie transmission rate is so uneconomic that 184MW of its 200MW of capacity have never been subscribed, essentially going un-utilized and collecting zero revenue since the high voltage Colstrip Transmission System was constructed over thirty years ago.

“The draft decision by Administrator Mainzer is out of step with policymakers across the Northwest,” said Cameron Yourkowski, Senior Policy Manager for Renewable Northwest. “It defies common business sense to retain a rate that has not attracted customers for more than 30 years, especially when political leaders in both renewable energy producing states and potential consuming states have asked for its removal,” he added.

Public policy makers from across the Northwest have called for the rate’s elimination. Among those that have demonstrated their support for eliminating the Montana Intertie transmission rate include Montana Governor Bullock, Montana US Senator Tester, Montana's all-Republican Public Service Commission, Montana's State Legislature that passed House Resolution 2, Washington US Senator Cantwell, Washington's State House of Representatives that passed Joint Memorial 4008 unanimously, and Oregon US Senator Merkley.

“This decision is a slap in the face to Montana’s coal communities trying to diversify their energy economy,” said Renewable Northwest’s Montana Policy Manager, Jeff Fox.

The Montana Intertie transmission rate applies to every would-be generator that would like to utilize the transmission capacity across the Montana Intertie, including wind. Today more than 1,000 MW of wind energy projects under development in Montana have requested transmission service from BPA, but the Montana Intertie transmission rate is viewed by many as an economic barrier to the development of these projects, adding about $2 per MW/h in transmission charges to the delivered cost of Montana wind projects to Northwest utilities.

Montana's high capacity wind has a unique production value that makes it a great fit for winter peaking Pacific Northwest utilities such as Puget Sound Energy. In fact, in Puget Sound Energy's most recent Integrated Resource Plan, Montana wind resources were assumed to have a very high capacity credit, a measurement of the correlation between when a resource generates and when the energy is most needed.

BPA will have the opportunity to reverse course when it issues the final Record of Decision on July 26th.

“Part of BPA’s charter under the Northwest Power Act is to facilitate cost-effective renewable energy development. This draft decision is inconsistent with BPA’s obligations to Montana and the region,” said Cameron Yourkowski. “BPA should reverse course in their final decision.”

For more information contact:

Cameron Yourkowski

(971) 634-0143

Jeff Fox

(406) 599-2916

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