Talen Energy announced the oldest coal-burning units at the Colstrip coal plant in Colstrip, Montana, will retire by the end of the year, two and a half years earlier than required under an earlier legal settlement. Units 1 and 2 – which were built in the 1970s – have faced serious problems remaining competitive as energy markets shift dramatically. Economic shifts in energy are expected to put continued pressure on the remaining units at the plant, which produce power for three times the price of Montana wind projects.

Today’s decision marks an opportunity to lean on the workforce expertise in Montana and to use Colstrip’s existing transmission system to build out more clean energy and export it to Washington and other states that are looking to significantly ramp up clean energy generation. The American Wind Energy Association ranks Montana third for wind power potential in the United States. Montana’s wind resource has the potential to power 6.4 million average homes by 2030 according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In their release, Talen cited ongoing troubles finding agreement on a price for coal from the nearby Rosebud mine, which has fed the plant for decades. The mine’s owner, Westmoreland Coal Co., emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year.

Though out-of-state utilities like Puget Sound Energy have set aside money for economic transition for the community of Colstrip, Talen Energy has yet to contribute.

Mike Scott, the Sierra Club’s senior campaign representative in Montana, issued the following statement:

“Montana’s energy landscape is changing and Montana must stay competitive. With the announced retirement of two coal units at Colstrip, it’s time for us to look ahead. We have the clean energy resources and a talented workforce to develop them. Montana can build clean energy that customers are demanding right now and continue to power the Pacific Northwest.

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