Mixed Messages

March 1: "The plant does not depend on the city acquiring a residential customer base, period." (J. Lawton, city manager)

April 10: "We have consistently said that our long-term contracts with large customers will be used to back our portion of financing for Highwood Station and that taxpayers will assume zero risk for construction of the project." (J. Love, city administrative officer)

April 17: The re-regulation bill would hurt the city's efforts to expand a base of medium-size and large customers for the coal plant, he said. (J. Lawton)

April 17: A legislative panel refused to push back the effective date of a utility "re-regulation" bill, infuriating two Great Falls lawmakers, who complained that it would make things tougher for a coal-fired power plant to be built outside the city.

City administrators have made bold statements that the coal plant does not depend on selling power to residents. However, actions speak louder than words. At every turn, the city has either attempted legislation to make Great Falls residents captive customers or lobbied to legislators the vital importance that the coal plant be able to sell power to GF residents.

Great Falls has now spent several million dollars on the coal plant, forming an electric company that buys power from SME in exchange for valuable water rights then sells power at a loss to large businesses. It will not be able to sell electricity to GF residents if the re-regulation bill goes through. Will the coal plant be able to compete with Northwestern Energy for large customers? While it appears fairly easy to sell power at a loss, where will we sell our excess power if we decide we actually want to make a profit?

No comments: