Posted: Aug 31, 2012 7:16 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA- A pair of utility companies are considering major upgrades to their transmission lines in Montana.
NorthWestern Energy and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) met with the Public Service Commission on Thursday to talk about the potential projects.
NorthWestern Energy Vice President of Transmission Mike Cashell says Northwestern Energy is considering adding 600 megawatts of capacity to its Colstrip Transmission System, a line stretching from Colstrip to Townsend.
BPA is also looking at upgrading its transmission line which connects to the Colstrip System at Townsend and runs into Northern Idaho.
"This is a big question that's on folks minds: who are the customers for these upgrades? Well, primarily it looks like renewable resources," Cashell explained.
Gaelectric has expressed interest in building four wind projects in Montana but they have no way of getting that energy to market because the existing transmission lines are running at capacity.
The proposed wind projects in Harlowton, Columbus, Big Timber and Geyser will provide energy to customers in Oregon, Washington and eventually California.
Gaelectric's Head of Transmission Ted Williams says Montana ratepayers will not be picking up the tab for any upgrades to existing lines.
"The ultimate consumer should and will pay transmission and integration costs," Williams says. "There isn't any subsidization that seems to be coming back the other direction. Native load customers won't have to pay for investments that are made for export."
NorthWestern Energy and Bonneville Power both report they will not move forward with plans to build the lines until Gaelectric commits to using them for transmission.