Montana Is Cooling On Coal

The current population of the “Treasure State,” Montana is estimated to be 1.07 million people. In February 2019, state utilities used coal (56.6%), renewables (40.6%) and natural gas (2.8%) to generate electricity. Hydropower is the primary source of renewable energy to generate electricity in Montana.

Montana’s energy policy is “to promote energy efficiency, conservation, production, and consumption of a reliable and efficient mix of energy sources that represent the least social, environmental, and economic costs and the greatest long- term benefits to Montana citizens.” Montana is one of 30 states with a Renewable Portfolio Standard.

In April 2005, the Montana State Legislature enacted the Renewable Power Production and Rural Economic Development Act. The standard requires public utilities serving 50 or more customers to procure a percentage of their retail electricity sales from eligible renewable energy sources, like wind and solar.

Although Montana encourages renewable energy and has significant undeveloped renewable energy resources, coal is still king. Montana has America’s largest coal reserves and is the seventh largest coal producing state. The world is changing, and economics no longer favor utilities using coal.

Independent power producer, Talen Energy has announced it will close two of the four coal-fired power units at the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, more than two years ahead of schedule. The plants are being closed due to the escalating cost of coal, which is now more twice the cost of renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydropower.

Talen Energy headquartered in Allentown, Pennsylvania operates as an energy and power generation and marketing company in North America. The company generates electricity through nuclear, natural gas and oil, coal, hydro, and renewable energy sources.
Utilities have been steadily closing coal-fueled power plants over the past decade due to economic and environmental reasons.

The cost to mine and ship coal by rail has been rapidly increasing. Electricity from coal-fueled power plants is more than double the cost of electricity from wind, solar or hydropower. The risk of coal ash contaminating our nation’s ground water is also causing utilities to replace coal-fueled power plants with clean, green energy.

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