Quick Take: We don't object to the feds saying "No" to a project if it's not right. But we do object to them taking four years and charging $14 million to say "well... maybe... we'll see." - By Jesse Berst
In the face of constant federal delays, South Dakota-based NorthWestern Energy has thrown up its hands and asked several government agencies to stop analyzing a proposed $1 billion, 430-mile transmission line from Montana to Idaho. The understandably frustrated company has spent more than $23 million over the past four years, $14 million which went to the government for studies. "We've called a timeout," NorthWestern spokesperson Claudia Rapkoch told the Montana Standard. "It's really because of a lack of cooperation with multiple federal agencies. We've been going along for years and counting delay after delay and are getting no closer."
In recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it was evaluating whether to continue. The latest roadblock came from the Bureau of Land Management. The agency ordered NorthWestern to propose alternative routes through southeastern Idaho to avoid sage grouse habitat. The requirement could add further delays and another 160 miles to the project. "We are funding these agencies and we're not getting a real sense of when this might get completed," Rapkoch said.
NorthWestern officials filed their original application in July 2008 for a 500-kilovolt transmission line to give Montana wind projects a way to reach markets in the West. The company had projected a completion date of mid-2013. The latest delays had pushed construction back to 2018 at the earliest.
Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.
You might also be interested in ...
Transmission work slows amid regulation and local opposition
Electric power transmission toolkit