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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Montana Bulk Transmission Permitting Process (MT)

The steps of the Montana bulk transmission permitting process are summarized in the chart below. Roll over each section for a summary of the regulations and permits it covers. Click a section to learn more about the required permits and regulations related to that topic.

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Project Development Timeline

Bulk Transmission Development in Montana

The electrical grid in Montana is part of both the Eastern and Western Interconnection power grids and is part of two NERC regions - the Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO) and Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). MRO's service territory extends from the state of Nebraska north to the Provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan and includes part of Montana and east to include all of North Dakota and Minnesota and portions of South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. WECC's service territory extends from Canada to Mexico. It includes the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico, and all or portions of the 14 Western states between. The WECC is the Regional Entity responsible for coordinating and promoting Bulk Electric System reliability in the Western Interconnection, including in Montana. The MRO serves a similar function in its service territory within the Eastern Interconnection. In addition, MRO and WECC provide an environment for coordinating the operating and planning activities of its members as set forth in their Bylaws.

In addition, some transmission owners in Montana are part of the Northern Tier Transmission Group (NTTG). The NTTG is a group of transmission providers and customers that are actively involved in the sale and purchase of transmission capacity of the power grid that delivers electricity to customers in the Northwest and Mountain States. Transmission owners serving this territory work in conjunction with state governments, customers, and other stakeholders to improve the operations of and chart the future for the grid that links all of these service territories.

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO) is an idenpendent System Operator (ISO) and the Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) that provides open-access transmission service and monitors the transmission system throughout the Midwest United States and Manitoba Canada, including Montana.

Montana-Dakota Utiltities Company, NorthWestern Energy, Southern Montana Electric Generation & Transmission Cooperative, Inc., Central Montana Electric Power Cooperative, Western Area Power Administration, Bonneville Power Administration, Western Area Power Administration, Columbia Grid, Northern Tier Transmission Group, and Montana Electric Cooperatives’ Association provide transmission in the state of Montana.

Division of Energy Promotion and Development

The Montana Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Promotion and Development (EPD) was created in 2007 to foster the responsible development of Montana's vast energy resources. The EPD works directly with Department of Commerce financing programs and other state agencies to facilitate processes related to permitting, siting, workforce, and financial assistance. Facilitating transmission and infrastructure development has been a priority for EPD. The EPD has coordinated development activities and funding requests to the federal government, and advanced proposals to modify transmission rates that would benefit delivery of Montana wind to the Pacific Northwest. EPD also works in conjunction with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in both its Energy Planning and Pollution Prevention and Permitting and Compliance programs on transmission planning and siting activities.

EPD facilitates a wind and transmission working group that consists of industry, government, academic and other stakeholders. The group meets to identify obstacles to transmission and wind development and to develop strategies to overcome those obstacles.

Montana has adopted a renewable portfolio standard as well as a tax policy that incentivizes the development of new electrical transmission that will carry renewable energy. The Montana Alberta Tie Line, a 230 kV transmission line completed in 2013 connecting Lethbridge to Great Falls utilized those advantageous tax policies as that line’s capacity is contracted to wind farm developers.

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