As the COVID-19 pandemic roils state and national economies, three Northwest IOUs have secured short-term loans, according to 8-K forms filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

NorthWestern Energy secured a $100 million loan to ensure it has enough cash on hand and financial flexibility during the ensuing pandemic, utility spokeswoman Jo Dee Black told Clearing Up.

The loan doubles the company's amount of liquidity—its minimum level in normal times is $100 million.

"We have found $100 million to be adequate during normal times when capital markets are open and accessible and customer loads are normal," Black said. "We need to plan for all of that to potentially be different for a period of time."

The loan, secured April 3, is purely a "precautionary measure," she said.

NWE's concerns from the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic include weaker earnings from lower retail loads, lower transmission revenues and customers struggling to pay their bills.

So far, NorthWestern has "not experienced major declines across our business related to COVID-19," Black said.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock announced April 22 that the state will start rolling back restrictions put in place to limit the novel coronavirus' spread. The process will begin April 26 when places of worship will be allowed to reopen. "Main Street and retail businesses" can reopen April 27, and schools can reopen May 7.

Portland General Electric secured a $150 million loan April 9, according to a 8-K form filed with the SEC.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, "PGE is opting to accelerate some of its debt financing activity to ensure adequate liquidity to support its business," utility spokeswoman Andrea Platt told Clearing Up.

Avista also secured a $100 million loan April 5 "to provide additional liquidity and for general corporate purposes," the utility said in its 8-K form filed with the SEC.

Idaho Power has not borrowed any money due to the pandemic, company spokesman Jordan Rodriguez said.

Puget Sound Energy is "still studying the financial issues," PSE spokeswoman Janet Kim said.

Consumer-owned utilities also are considering their financial options. The Tacoma Public Utility Board unanimously approved Tacoma Power's request to borrow up to $100 million to maintain liquidity.

"It's insurance," Tacoma Power's Bill Berry told board members during their April 22 virtual meeting. "We don't have to draw on it unless we absolutely have to."

Contributing Editor

Dan has covered stories from Seattle to Tbilisi; spent time with the AP, Everett Daily Herald and Christian Science Monitor; and was twice a member of a team nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He and his wife have three young children and live in Seattle.