Customers Come First in Electric Generation Decisions
BISMARCK, N.D. – March 9, 2018 – Earlier this month Montana-Dakota Utilities signed an agreement to purchase a North Dakota wind farm expansion to be developed by ALLETE Clean Energy. The expansion of Thunder Spirit Wind, located near Hettinger, North Dakota, will boost the combined production at the wind farm from approximately 107 megawatts to 155 megawatts.
“There are a lot of reasons for us to be excited about this project. For Montana-Dakota it makes good business sense because easements, interconnection to the grid and permits were already in place from the first phase of Thunder Spirit. More important for Montana-Dakota’s customers, it means they will continue enjoying the safe, reliable, low-cost energy they have come to expect from Montana-Dakota.
Our decision, while considering several factors, was based on a foundation we have followed over the company’s 94-year history: find the least-cost option without compromising reliability. In other words, we are customer focused. And without question, moving forward with the Thunder Spirit Wind expansion was the best and least-cost option to meet the growing demand of our nearly 143,000 electric customers.
In the states we serve, Montana-Dakota is regulated by state utility commissions, one of which is the North Dakota Public Service Commission. One of our requirements is to file a resource plan with the PSC every two years. This plan is a long-term framework to ensure we can continue to provide our customers reliable, affordable energy.
Resource planning is a straight-forward and transparent process to forecast customer energy needs and identify scenarios for us to meet those needs while doing what’s best for our customers, communities, and the environment. We have a public advisory group that participates in our process, providing input on the development of the plan.
To give you an idea of how thorough the company was in developing the 2017 resource plan, we issued a request for proposals to meet the energy needs of our customers. We received 27 responses, which included 16 wind proposals and an array of others from coal to hydro to solar to natural gas.
We carefully considered those proposals, as well as other self-build options, and the results of the rigorous analysis showed that the Thunder Spirit Wind expansion is the best option for our customers. We outlined how we got to that decision point in our resource plan, which was then submitted to the North Dakota PSC. It’s our job to execute the plan in the best interest of our customers.
The wind expansion brings our generation portfolio to 27 percent renewables. We believe a diverse mix of generation sources is a good practice to follow. We continue to rely on low-cost, baseload coal-fired generation, a renewable segment that has no fuel cost and helps lower our carbon footprint, and natural gas-fired turbines that take advantage of low-cost natural gas to meet our peak electric demand. We also are a member of a regional transmission organization that gives us access to low-cost energy across a large geographic footprint.
As North Dakota legislators try to best leverage the state’s diverse energy mix while ensuring the affordability and reliability of electricity to their constituents, it should be recognized that the state’s regulated utilities are working diligently to accomplish this through the resource planning and regulatory process.
Montana-Dakota Utilities strives every day to provide its customers with affordable and reliable electric service, while being good stewards of the environment, and our resource planning process is a key driver to meet that goal.
President and CEO
Media Contact: Mark Hanson at (701) 530-1093 or [email protected]
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