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Billings-area residents will have a chance to respond to the NorthWestern Energy’s 20-year power supply plan during a Jan. 2 hearing at the public library.

The hearing scheduled by the Montana Public Service Commission offers one of the last chances the public will get to comment on NorthWestern’s energy supply procurement plan.

The company sees a need for 800 megawatts of additional generation, which on paper NorthWestern indicates would likely come from power plants fired with natural gas. However, on Dec. 9, the South Dakota-based utility announced it would attempt to buy an additional 25% of Colstrip Unit 4 to fulfill 185 megawatts of its perceived need.

At three hearings in Missoula and Helena, the public has overwhelmingly opposed NorthWestern’s plans to add more fossil fuel generation to its portfolio. There were protests outside the hearings in Helena, where no one from the public spoke in favor of NorthWestern’s plan, advocating instead for a shift to renewable energy.

The Jan. 2 hearing in Billings, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Billings Public Library, 510 N. Broadway, could draw a different crowd. Billings is the largest city in coal country and less than two hours from Colstrip Power Plant, which will see two of its coal-fired units close in early January.

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The final hearing on the NorthWestern Energy 20-year supply procurement plan will be Jan. 3 in Lewistown at the public library, 701 Main St., at 5 p.m.

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