Operator of Montana’s Colstrip coal-fired plant is retained 🔓

The operator of one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the Western U.S. plans to keep running the 2,100-megawatt plant, a spokesman said this week, a reversal from its declaration last year a new operator would be needed by mid-2018.

The co-owners of the Colstrip Generating Station have decided Pennsylvania-based Talen Energy will keep running the southeast Montana plant for the foreseeable future, Talen spokesman Todd Martin said.

Martin did not give a reason for the reversal, which was first reported by the Billings Gazette newspaper based on interviews with representatives of other utilities involved in the plant.

The plant is owned by Talen, Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric, Avista, PacifiCorp, and NorthWestern Energy, Kallanish Energy reports.

Avista bought a 15% stake in Colstrip’s units 3 and 4 in the 1980s. The plant supplies roughly 9% of Avista’s electricity. Company officials say they expect Colstrip to be a viable part of the utility’s energy mix through at least 2037, the Associated Press reported.

Talen executives said last year the plant was no longer economically viable. A company lobbyist told lawmakers in March it was losing roughly $30 million annually on the plant, located near the small town of Colstrip in southeast Montana.

Montana lawmakers this year approved a measure allowing Talen to borrow up to $10 million annually to keep Colstrip fully operational until 2022. The arrangement was intended to prop up the plant as coal-plant closures sweep through the utility industry, AP reported.

Two of Colstrip’s four coal-fired units are slated to shut down in mid-2022, under a legal settlement with conservation groups aimed at resolving a lawsuit over decades of pollution from the plant.