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Washington state utility regulators throw wrench in NW Energy effort to increase Colstrip stake

Posted at 11:11 AM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 13:11:42-04

Energy regulators in Washington state are recommending against approval of a proposal from one of Colstrip's owners to sell its shares of the plant to co-owners NorthWestern Energy and Talen Energy.

Staff members of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission say they're against the plan from Bellevue, Washington-based Puget Sound Energy to sell its share for $1 because they don't believe the sale is in the best interest of the public.

Puget Sound Energy owns 25 percent of Colstrip's units 3 and 4 and supplies power to 1 million customers in western Washington. The company has said it wants to get out of the coal business to meet clean-energy standards in Washington.

While the sales price is low, the two buyers would take over operating costs and pass them onto customers.

Staff of the Washington utilities commission said Puget Sound Energy is potentially harming customers by selling off assets at a depreciated value. They also believe it's premature to assume the Colstrip assets are of no value because they could be used as leverage for Puget Sound to acquire renewable energy shares in Montana.

The deal requires approval by Washington's three-member utilities commission and the Montana Public Service Commission.

Colstrip is co-owned by six utilities: Puget Sound, NorthWestern, Talen, Portland General Electric, Avista and PacifiCorp.

Three of those owners- Puget Sound, Avista and PacifiCorp- have declared their intentions to pull out of plant by around 2027 because it will have lost its value.

NorthWestern, the only Montana-based owner with a 35 percent stake, has said it believes the plant has a much longer lifespan.