Montana PSC approves PPL sale of 11 hydropower plants to NorthWestern Energy

The Montana Public Service Commission has approved PPL Montana’s sale of 11 hydroelectric plants totaling 663 MW to NorthWestern Energy.

PPL Montana LLC, a generation subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based PPL Corp. (NYSE: PPL), announced the $900 million deal in September 2013, saying it was subject to pending approvals by the PSC, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The Federal Trade Commission granted Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust approval in May. FERC still must act on the agreement.

Prior to the Sept. 4 vote approving the sale 4-1, Commissioner Bob Lake said the sale would bring the projects back under Montana control, ensure stability by ownership by a vertically integrated utility rather than a generation utility, and secure hydropower having no fuel costs.

NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE) acquired the original hydro project owner, Montana Power, in 2000, at which time the hydro projects were sold to PPL Corp.

“These facilities were originally built as part of the integrated system that we own today and complement our existing set of supply resources” NorthWestern President Bob Rowe said at the time the deal was announced.

NorthWestern has said returning the projects to state-regulated utility control allows them to serve Montana customers at prices based on the cost of providing power rather than prices set by the western power market.

Included in the sale are the Missouri-Madison hydroelectric project (No. 2188) comprising the 19-MW Hauser, 48-MW Holter, 21-MW Black Eagle, 60-MW Rainbow, 69-MW Cochrane, 60-MW Ryan and 48-MW Morony plants on the Missouri River, and the 8-MW Madison plant and the unpowered Hebgen Dam on the Madison River; 94-MW Thompson Falls (No. 1869) on Clark Fork; 12-MW Mystic Lake (No. No. 2301) on West Rosebud Creek; and 194-MW Kerr (No. 5) on the Flathead River.

NorthWestern Energy has said the deal also confirms commitments to proceed with the transfer of Kerr Dam to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

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