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NorthWestern Energy: A 104-year timeline

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1912: The Montana Power Company (MPC) is formed through a merger of several regional utilities that earlier had acquired close to 50 smaller utility companies in Montana. MPC’s primary sources of energy supply were 10 hydroelectric generating stations dating to 1890, plus four steam plants. The company provided power to the larger cities in the state, coal and mining operations, and railways.

1912-1914: Fueled by the needs of the mines in Butte and the move to electrify railroads, MPC builds the Thompson Falls, Holter and Ryan Dam hydro facilities in Montana.

1914-1918: World War I amplifies the diversification of power use around the country.

1923-1924: The incorporation of Northwestern Public Service (NPS) brought together two electric utilities in Nebraska and two in South Dakota. NPS transfers its general office to the top floor of the Marvin Hughitt Hotel in Huron from Aberdeen.

1924-1941: NPS continues to purchase dozens of local and regional utilities in South Dakota and Nebraska. Acquisitions also include include manufactured gas, coal and oil generating properties.

1929-1933: The Depression causes a decline in industrial activity as well as a severe cutback in production of copper and zinc. MPC begins to acquire natural gas acreage in Montana.

1931: MPC builds close to 250 miles of 20-inch natural gas pipeline in Montana from the Cut Bank gas fields to the mines in Butte. It has branch lines to Helena and Deer Lodge.

1930-1938: MPC completes construction of Kerr Dam, its largest hydro project ever at 204 feet high.

1931-1944: As a byproduct of natural gas production, MPC refines and sells Power gasoline until the company is forced by the federal government to divest its gasoline business.

1941: NPS gives into public pressure and sells its electric utility holdings to the state of Nebraska for public ownership. NPS uses its payment from this sale to purchase natural gas operations in Kearney, North Platte and Grand Island, Neb.

1931-1950: MPC promotes natural gas for residential heating. MPC and NPS promote electricity use by selling and demonstrating electric appliances.

1952: MPC works with Canada to obtain a first-ever special defense permit for the export of gas to the U.S. from Canada under the stipulation that the gas must be used exclusively for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.

1953: NPS begins to purchase power from Missouri River dams built as part of the federal Flood Control Act of 1944.

1952-1957: Beginning with the towns of Brookings and Madison, NPS works to secure gas franchises from cities and gas supply from operators while building gas distribution systems in South Dakota.

1958: MPC completes construction of the 50-megawatt Cochrane Dam — the company’s 14th and final hydro facility in Montana.

1959: MPC enters into the coal generation business with the purchase of coal mines near Colstrip. The Rosebud mine became one of the largest mines in the nation.

1959: In collaboration with the federal government, MPC builds 94 miles of transmission and its associated distribution lines within Yellowstone National Park.

1968: MPC completes its first coal-fired generating plant, the J.E. Corette Plant near Billings.

1969-1975: NPS and other ownership partners complete construction of Big Stone Plant, a 400-megawatt coal-fired electric generating plant near Milbank, S.D.

1973-1984: MPC and its other ownership partners complete two 330-megawatt and two 700-megawatt coal-fired generating units in eastern Montana. Power from the plants is carried across the company’s twin 500-kV lines from Colstrip to Toston, where they connect with a Bonneville Power Administration line.

1984: MPC organizes its nonutility functions under Entech, a wholly owned subsidiary engaged in mining, oil, natural gas and technology in the U.S., Canada and Brazil.

1994: NPS expands into other forms of services nationwide including propane, technology, telecommunications and HVAC businesses.

1997: Montana passes a utility deregulation law.

1997: MPC decides to sell its generation, mining and oil production assets and invest in telecommunications.

1998: NPS changes its name to NorthWestern Corporation.

1999: MPC sells all of its electric generation assets to PPL. It subsequently sells its oil, natural gas and coal properties.

2002: NorthWestern Corporation purchases the remaining MPC energy transmission and distribution system forming NorthWestern Energy. The company now provides electric and natural gas service to customers in Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota.

2003-2004: NorthWestern Corporation seeks to complete a financial restructuring under Chapter 11 protection. Within 15 months, the company emerges from Chapter 11.

2007: Montana passes HB 25, ending deregulation for the state.

2010-2012: NorthWestern Energy purchases a majority interest in close to 750 producing natural gas wells in the Battle Creek and Bear Paw areas in north-central Montana.

2011: NorthWestern Energy completes construction of the Dave Gates Generating Station, a three-unit, 150-megawatt, gas-fired turbine facility near Anaconda, Mont. NorthWestern Energy begins construction of a 60-megawatt, gas-fired peaking plant in Aberdeen, S.D.

2011-2012: NorthWestern Energy agrees to purchase power — up to 25 megawatts – from The Titan Wind Farm located west of Miller, S.D. The company also anticipates purchasing the newly constructed 40-megawatt wind farm, Spion Kop, east of Great Falls in the Highwood Mountains.

2014: NorthWestern Energy buys 11 hydroelectric dams from PPL Montana, adding more than 430 megawatts of generation for Montana customers. Nearly 60 percent of electricity provided to Montana comes from renewable sources.

2016: NorthWestern Energy moves to Montana General Office at 11 E. Park Street in Butte, after more than 100 years at 40 E. Broadway. The building represents the most significant project in Uptown Butte in many decades.

Source: NorthWestern Energy


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