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MDU Responds To PSC’s Concerns

Despite warnings from two Montana Public Service commission members, Montana Dakota Utilities reports that there’s no great fears of a blackout happening in Eastern Montana this summer.

“The bottom line: The company has sufficient generation resources to meet its peak demand requirements,” MDU’s spokesman Mark Hanson said in an email. “While we do not anticipate any issues and a blackout or firm load shed event is not likely, there is always a possibility it could happen.”

MDU has 26,000 metered electric customers in Eastern Montana including homes in several Roosevelt County communities.

“Montana-Dakota Utilities’ advantage is that our service territory sits at the far northwest corner of the MISO grid. Shedding Montana-Dakota load isn’t going to help the rest of MISO,” Hanson explained. “North Dakota is a net exporter of power. Getting to a point where Montana-Dakota would be called upon to shed load wouldn’t be helpful at that point because there wouldn’t be enough capacity on the transmission lines to get it out of the area.”

In a press release sent on Thursday, Aug. 4, PSC commissioners Randy Pinocci and Tony O’Donnell called upon state leaders to do everything possible to retain Montana’s last major baseload power plant, the Colstrip generating facility.

They mentioned alerts for anticipated energy shortages in the electricity delivery systems by the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation because of premature shuttering of nuclear and coal baseload power generating plants. “This is likely to immediately affect the portions of eastern Montana served by MDU which relies upon electricity supplied by MISO, the Midcontinent Independent Service Organizations,” commissioners wrote.

The problem, according to commissioners, is that when Montana has extremely cold temperatures, NorthWestern Electricity might be unable to buy power from any other source to keep Montanans from freezing in the night. The unavailability of importable power is due to, as NERC and MISO point out, premature closure of reliable coal and nuclear plants, called “baseload” due to their 24/7/52 potential, prior to reliable alternatives being built and able to meet Montana’s energy needs.

Hanson said, “MDU is a member of MISO. Colstrip does not connect to the MISO grid, so that generation plant has no impact on MDU.”

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