Let's put the high-paying jobs and the money that it will bring in for schools and our economy aside for just a moment. With energy prices soaring across America, why is it important that Northwestern Energy gets this natural gas-fired power plant up and running in Laurel, Montana?

Bleau LaFave and Steve Schmitt joined us recently on our statewide radio talk show. They are on Northwestern Energy's Energy Supply Team looking at the long term energy supply planning needs for our region.

Has Montana over-invested in green energy projects over the last 20 years or so?

Aaron Flint: Part of my question there is- in Montana the political pressure, certainly in the past 20 years, unfortunately, I believe I pushed too strong in the renewable slash green energy direction. And now we're kind of paying the price for it.


Bleau LaFave: We are. I mean, as we go through the overall portfolios, as we go through trying to balance a portfolio that meets a reliability need and meets a cost effective need, we need to be very aware of the type of resources that we're adding to to Northwestern's portfolio to serve our customers. And although there is a, there is a place in a balanced portfolio mix for renewables, we definitely need to have the right characteristics associated with that amount of renewables in order to make sure that we deliver power when those renewables can't and make sure that we also have those hedges against the market price.

Since 2014, Northwestern Energy has brought over 900 megawatts on to the system. Now, they need more traditional, reliable resources like coal and natural gas to provide the backup for that power.

How important is the Laurel gas plant for Montana's energy supply needs?


Steve Schmitt: We had an event in December of 22, where we saw that 40 below. And we talk about what is our peak energy needs during those times  when it's that cold- and we're up around 1,300 megawatts of need. And there was a time when, during that event that we had to go in we had to to purchase about 41% of our energy from the market at that time, because what we saw was that the wind wasn't blowing- there was very little solar production.

Full audio from our chat with Northwestern Energy back on May 3rd:

Video used for screenshot credited above:

LOOK: The 25 least expensive states to live in

Here are the top 25 states with the lowest cost of living in 2022, using data Stacker culled from the Council for Community and Economic Research.


More From Montana Talks