The Latest: Montana puts new limits on renewable energy contracts

  • A wind turbine in Cut Bank, Montana.

    Flickr user mr_t_77 (CC)

Updated 10/29/13

Idaho is one of the few Western states that doesn't mandate that some percentage of its electricity come from renewable sources. With little incentive to promote such projects, Idaho Power, the state's biggest utility, lobbied regulators to effectively lock out new commercial wind farms in 2010. It lowered the maximum size for renewable energy contracts from an average 10 megawatts to just 100 kilowatts – a size at which commercial projects aren't viable ("Power Play," HCN, 9/2/13).

On Oct. 1, Montana, which does have a renewable-sources mandate, followed Idaho's lead, and limited the size of certain renewable energy contracts. Its "standard" contract, which had allowed small-scale operations to win bids without competing against larger projects, drops from a maximum 10 megawatts to three. Proponents say this will let the state purchase wind power more cheaply, but small-project owners say the new maximum isn't financially feasible and they can't lower prices enough to compete with larger projects.

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