Planning Montana's Clean Energy Future

Long-term resource planning helps deliver affordable and reliable energy into the future.

Montana Integrated Resource Plan 2023

NorthWestern Energy’s commitment to provide all our customers with reliable, safe energy service at the most affordable cost and to be responsible stewards of the environment remains the cornerstone of our mission as we enter our second century in the energy business.

Previous Plans

Integrated Resource Plan

Wind turbines at the Two Dot Wind Farm at sunset

Integrated Resource Plan

NorthWestern Energy files an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) with the Montana Public Service Commission every three years. The IRP presents an evaluation of different potential generation resource portfolios that would meet the needs of our Montana electric customers reliably, safely and affordably over a 20‑year time horizon.

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See, in real time, the resources being used to produce your electricity.

Montana 2023 Integrated Resource Plan Frequently Asked Questions

Customer rates would increase and be prohibitively expensive with only renewable generation resources. Energy service would be less reliable.

NorthWestern Energy has an obligation to provide our Montana customers with reliable, safe energy at the most affordable rates possible.

We must meet our obligation so that Montanans’ homes are warm in the winter, hospitals can treat patients and businesses can operate.

Today and in the near-term future, natural gas and coal generation resources are the critical, cost-effective capacity resources keeping the lights on for our Montana customers as technology is developing to make renewable resources more reliable and cost-effective.

NorthWestern Energy is committed to being a good steward of the environment. We have increased our sustainability efforts and our access to clean energy resources. We are committed to achieving net zero emission by 2050.

Wind and solar are variable energy resources and the inputs – wind and the sun – are free. There are even times when NorthWestern Energy’s variable generation resources produce more energy than our Montana customers need, such as on breezy, sunny days with mild temperatures.

But variable wind and solar generation are not resources that are always available and cannot be counted on to meet our Montana customers’ energy needs 24/7, on demand.

NorthWestern Energy does not have enough capacity resources to meet our Montana customers’ high energy needs for long durations, such as cold winter weather that lasts several days. Sizing wind and solar generation projects to have similar capacity values – to be available to serve customers when they need energy service – as natural gas or coal projects, would mean projects that costs hundreds of millions of dollars more. The same is true for wind and solar generation projects paired with battery storage. 

Our customers will pay more for energy from new wind or solar generation sized to have adequate capacity values to keep the lights on during multi-day subzero weather in the winter than from 24/7, on demand resources, such as natural gas plants or existing coal plants. 
The plan uses the capacity values established by the Western Resource Adequacy Program, the regional energy adequacy program for the Pacific Northwest. NorthWestern Energy is a member of WRAP.

Yes. The plan timeline was adjusted so new incentives for renewable generation projects available through the federal Inflation Reduction Act could be included. Modeling for wind, solar, battery and pumped hydro energy storage and geothermal resources in the plan includes federal financial incentives that would pay for about 30% of new for wind, solar, battery and pumped hydro energy storage and geothermal resources generation projects.