Montana intertie rate is a barrier to renewable energy, growth, and jobs
Seattle, Washington — Yesterday, as part of its 2018 rate recommendation, the Bonneville Power Administration announced its desire to retain the Montana Intertie transmission rate. The $2 per MWh charge, which applies to a 90-mile section of power lines between Townsend and Garrison, Montana, serves as a significant barrier to the transmission of clean, renewable energy from Montana wind farms to metropolitan areas in western Washington and Oregon.
The draft decision is an important one for communities in Montana that see the development of wind and solar power generation as a significant economic development opportunity. At the same time, utility customers in Oregon and Washington are crying out for more clean, renewable energy. Montana wind is especially valuable because it peaks in the winter when Northwest electricity usage is highest.
Despite the existence of this compelling need on both ends of the transmission line and the fact that more than 90% of the Montana intertie’s capacity is available for subscription, developers and utilities are less able to take advantage because the Montana intertie rate tips the scale on the cost-competitiveness of energy from Montana wind.
That’s why policymakers from Montana, Washington, and Oregon are advocating for the elimination of the Montana intertie rate, pointing out that doing so would be both economically and environmentally beneficial to Montana and to the region as a whole. This consensus among the states creates some room for hope that BPA may yet reverse its recommendation.
“In many ways, BPA is moving in the right direction,” said Fred Heutte, senior policy analyst at the NW Energy Coalition. “For a long time, it looked like BPA would go ahead with building a new power line for the I-5 corridor. But, ultimately they figured out they could address the challenge more effectively through smarter planning and regional integration. Getting rid of the Montana Intertie transmission rate would be another step in that direction. We hope that, between now and when it makes its final recommendation, BPA will reconsider and let the intertie rate die.”
BPA’s final Record of Decision concerning rates is due on July 26th.