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Montana bill would count all non-federal hydro assets as renewable energy

Lawmakers in Montana are considering a bill that would make it easier for utilities to meet the standard for renewable energy production by including larger, existing hydropower assets toward state renewables requirements.

Montana utilities are required to procure 10 percent of their retail electricity sales from renewable resources. That increases to 15 percent in 2015.

The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Debby Barrett, of Dillon, would allow electricity produced by large hydroelectric facilities to count toward state renewable resource requirements, the Associated Press reported.

State law now counts only smaller hydroelectric facilities of 10 MW or less toward those requirements. Barrett's bill would make all existing dams and hydroelectric facilities eligible renewable energy resources, as long as they are not federal facilities.

About 40 percent of Montana's electricity comes from hydroelectric power, and the proposal would add approximately 1,000 MW of existing power to the state renewable energy standard, said officials with the Montana Environmental Information Center.

The bill would add so much hydroelectric power that companies required to comply with the standard would not have to develop any new resources for the next 20 years, officials said.

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