Right now, Montana’s lawmakers are reviewing the Renewable Energy Standard, which requires utilities to increase the amount of renewable energy they buy. But they are trying to fix something that isn’t broken. Renewable energy is a great buy for Montana. Power from the wind farm at Judith Gap, for example, is cheaper than electricity from Colstrip. That’s a fact. NorthWestern has reported it, and the Public Service Commission has recorded it.
And actually, solar is cheaper too. I know because I just bought solar photovoltaic panels for my house — which I am installing myself — and they are going to pay for themselves in six years. After that, I am going to have free electricity for at least 20 years.
The reason why some legislators want to mess with the Renewable Energy Standard, I suspect, is not because clean energy isn’t working, it’s because the coal lobby is running scared. Some rich people have a lot of money invested in coal, and things are not looking good for coal right now. PPL is trying to sell its share of Colstrip to NorthWestern, but when NorthWestern crunched the numbers, it turned out that Colstrip had a negative value. That’s right. The economics of coal are so bad, PPL would actually have to pay NorthWestern money before NorthWestern would “buy” Colstrip.
If it isn’t broken, the Legislature shouldn’t try to fix it. The Renewable Energy Standard is good for the economy, good for the environment, and good for ratepayers.