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small brandlReducing Emissions
 

Our carbon footprint

NorthWestern Energy is committed to enhancing the environmental attributes of its balanced, safe and reliable energy mix and to being consistent with current regulatory and statutory directives. Over the past five years, we have reduced our carbon footprint dramatically from our electric portfolio. During 2014 and 2015, we acquired more than one billion dollars of clean energy, including 11 hydroelectric plants totaling 439 MW in Montana and an 80-MW wind energy plant in South Dakota. Since late 2016, we also have signed nine long-term renewable energy supply contracts with third-party wind and solar developers, adding up to 278 MW of new clean energy.

The graph below indicates our calculated carbon-emission rate for our Montana Electricity Supply Portfolio since 2012 and the anticipated carbon-emission rate through 2025 based on the assumptions included in our 2015 Electricity Supply Resource Procurement Plan (Plan). For comparison, the graph also shows the allowable carbon emission rates for new fossil fuel-fired steam plants (coal plants) and new natural gas-fired combined cycle plants based on the current regulations.

We update our Montana energy mix carbon emission calculations each year using data from the energy resources from the previous year. Every two years we go through an energy resource planning process to prepare a new Plan, looking ahead 20 years and evaluating the needs required to serve our customers safely, reliably and cost-effectively and to identify various options to fill those needs. We then update our carbon-emissions predictions based on the energy sources in the new Plan.

The value of the Montana hydro system to our customers and communities cannot be overstated. Unlike other renewables, it contributes both energy and capacity as well as additional or ancillary services. Thanks to the hydro system, pounds of carbon per net MWh or generation on our system today are substantially lower than would have been required under the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan target for Montana in 2030. Mainly through upgrades under current FERC license requirements, the hydro system also has potential to add cost effective supply at existing dams. In addition, our hydro system provides significant environmental and recreational amenities, including contributing to the quality of fish and wildlife habitat. Because the system forms the riparian arteries for much of Montana, we also embrace additional environmental stewardship opportunities, as described in this report.

Our South Dakota electric operations are included in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), which is a regional transmission operator that manages the bulk power grid and wholesale power market in the central United States on behalf of a group of utilities and transmission companies in 14 states. The carbon emission rate associated with providing electric service to our South Dakota customers is dependent on the mix of pooled energy resources in the SPP delivered to serve our customers.

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