Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Joshua Slotnick

Commitee Members

Len Broberg, Lisa Swallow


Renewable Energy, Solar Energy, Wind Energy, Coal, Colstrip


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Economic Policy | Energy Policy | Environmental Policy | Environmental Studies | Nature and Society Relations


Montana is home to the second-largest coal-fired power plant in the West, the Colstrip Generating Station. The value and demand for coal both domestically and globally is quickly diminishing, while the renewable energy industries of wind and solar are booming. As utilities in the Northwest transition their investments from coal to renewable energy, Montana faces a critical decision on the future of its energy system that will impact the lives of generations of Montanans to come.

This five-part report aims to aid in the discussion and decision-making process by reviewing the most up-to-date economic data on renewable energy; discussing the social and economic impacts of the Colstrip community’s transition out of the coal industry; and highlighting the perspectives of some of the most directly-impacted stakeholders in Montana’s energy industry.

Part 1 is a summary of Montana’s vast renewable energy potential and the urgent need to invest in these technologies for its long-term social and economic wellbeing. Part 2 is an analysis of the economic benefits of investing in a renewable energy economy, particularly the technologies of wind and solar energy. Part 3 is a discussion of the current trajectory of the Colstrip Generating Station in Colstrip, MT, and the social, environmental and economic impacts of plant closure on the local community. Part 4 is a literature review of recent academic literature (2010-present) on the economics of solar and wind energy. This is section is separated from the data presented in Part 2 to maintain a distinction from industry-based information. Finally, Part 5 of the report respectfully provides suggestions for its target organization, 350 Montana, for moving forward in the push for the statewide energy transition.



© Copyright 2018 Jacqueline O. Sussman