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Big Sky Connection - In a recent report, Sierra Club scored utilities for their climate-friendly pledges only slightly better than in its 2021 report. (bilanol/Adobe Stock)


Click on the image above for the audio.  Utilities have been touting their goals to make the transition to cleaner energy sources for their customers and the environment. But a deeper dive finds many, including NorthWestern Energy, lack a concrete plan to do so. Comments from Caitlin Piserchia (pih-ZER-sha), interim director of the Sierra Club's Montana chapter.

Eric Tegethoff

October 24, 2022

Utilities across the country are making climate pledges - but they're not necessarily backing them up, according to a new report.

The Sierra Club graded utilities based on their commitments to clean up their power grids. While NorthWestern Energy in Montana wasn't included in the report, it finds itself in a similar position to other utilities.

This year, the company unveiled its plan to be 'net zero' by 2050. Caitlin Piserchia, interim director of the Montana chapter of the Sierra Club, said her organization is skeptical.

"Their net-zero plan envisions them using their gas plants well beyond that, but purchasing carbon offsets to negate the associated emissions," said Piserchia. "So, it's not what it appears to be, and we are definitely concerned that it is not nearly ambitious enough."

Piserchia said the company plans to bring three gas plants online between now and 2050.

NorthWestern Energy says more than half of its electric generation is carbon-free, a level that is well above the average electric utility.

Piserchia said clean energy is becoming cheaper and more popular, which is why it's critical that NorthWestern Energy get its move to 'net zero' right.

"Polling finds that every year, there's more and more support for affordable clean energy," said Piserchia, "and that so many Montanans want to reduce pollution and protect their beautiful state, and ensure a stable climate, and provide people with more affordable energy options."

The Sierra Club report did score one energy company operating in Montana: Basin Electric Cooperative, based in North Dakota. The report gives that company a failing grade for its lack of plans to retire coal plants or build more renewable energy sources.