NewsLocal News


NorthWestern Energy reports heavy demand during Montana’s bitter February cold

Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:49:41-04

BILLINGS – NorthWestern Energy reports it saw a major surge in demand in Montana during the bitterly cold month of February.

From the start of 2019 through March 10, the utility recorded a 53percent increase in heating days when compared to the same time period last year. A heating day being any day where temperatures dip below 65 degrees.

February 5 at 7 p.m. is when NorthWestern’s electrical system experienced peak load. Peak load is when demand for power across the system is at its highest point. Temperatures in Billings that day ranged from -1 to -6 degrees below zero.

NorthWestern Energy records Feb. 2019 as the most demanding month for electricity ever.

An important source of energy keeping the lights on across Montana this winter was the Colstrip power plants.

“It really was a challenge for us that day (Feb. 5) because it was seven o’clock at night,” said Lisa Perry, NorthWestern Energy’s community relations manager. 

“We had no solar because it was seven o’clock on a winter night. Hydro was struggling because of the ice and temperatures.  The wind was only producing three megawatts at that time.  And remember our load was 1900 megawatts.    That really demonstrates the importance of Colstrip to our portfolio.  The difference in the demand and what we had in our portfolio, we had to buy on the market at that time.  Which was running on average during the month of February at about 93 dollars per megawatt.”