Guest Opinion: NorthWestern plans to enrich itself

Billings Gazette
Sunday, January 11, 2020

I attended the Public Service Commission’s Billings hearing last week regarding NorthWestern Energy’s 20-year energy procurement plan. The Gazette’s Jan. 3 article, “NorthWestern Energy power plan heard in Billings,” devoted most of its reporting to the small minority of participants supporting the plan (almost all of whom had direct or close ties to the coal industry), rather than the vast majority of speakers who were opposed.

Attendees of this standing-room-only hearing witnessed a large number of people upset that NorthWestern is trying to ram through a plan that is lacking in transparency, only benefits stockholders and corporate executives, is costly to all NWE customers, and is harmful to our health and environment.

NorthWestern’s refusal to add wind, solar, or storage projects over the next two decades doesn’t just endanger our climate; it will increase bills for customers. NorthWestern’s own reporting to the PSC showed that its most expensive energy during a two-year period came from Colstrip Unit 4 averaging over $73 per megawatt-hour. By comparison, the Judith Gap wind-farm averaged only $30 per megawatt-hour over the same period, a savings of over 60%.

Renewables already out-compete fossil fuels, and market trends indicate that clean energy will become even cheaper as fossil fuels get more expensive. So, why is NorthWestern doubling down on ownership of fossil fuels? Because they can pass all the costs and the risk onto us, their customers, while they are guaranteed a profit. This plan enriches NorthWestern at grave costs to Montanans.

Tom Tully
Billings, MT

Click here to read Tom’s letter on the Billings Gazette website.