NorthWestern Energy’s Attack on Residential Solar

Right now an attack on Montana’s clean energy future is underway. NorthWestern Energy, a monopoly utility for much of our state, is attempting to make it impossible for Montanans to save money by going solar. Without that incentive, it just won’t be possible for many Montana families to invest in a clean energy future.

For years now NorthWestern Energy has made various attempts to discourage their customers from choosing to generate their own power by going solar. We’ve been there to fight them tooth and nail to uphold policies that help Montanans choose a clean energy future. But this latest attempt is completely unfair and discriminatory.

What are the changes NorthWestern is asking for?

NorthWestern Energy is proposing several changes that will have devastating impacts to residential solar customers:

  • NWE is proposing a new, separate rate class for residential solar customers.
  • As it stands now, residential customers pay within a two-part rate structure: 1) your basic monthly service charge, and 2) an energy charge, based on how many kWh of energy you use in a month.
  • If their proposal is approved, residential solar customers would be subjected to paying the above charges but also a third: a new type of monthly charge called a demand charge.

What’s a demand charge?

Demand charges have been paid by large industrial customers in NorthWestern Energy’s service territory for a while, but no residential customer has ever had to pay a demand charge. Demand charges are typically paid by high energy users to account for their “demand” on the grid during high electricity demand hours.

NorthWestern is proposing that residential solar customers pay approximately $8.60 for every kilowatt of electricity they use during their single highest energy usage hour in a billing cycle.

You can see the potential effects that this will have solar residential solar customers utility bills in these case studies developed by Northern Plains member and retired physics professor Dick Walton.

The demand charge has nothing to do with rooftop solar or net metering. It’s a gimmick to add punishing charges to people with rooftop solar. It could mean that a net-metering customer pays $50 to $70 a month and could make it impossible to save money on your energy bills by investing in solar.

With this setup, you’re not getting any breaks for net metering and feeding energy back into the grid – you’re paying for progress. Why should someone pay exorbitantly higher prices for electing to install solar or wind, which benefit us all? We won’t stand for this and neither should you.

Contact your Public Service Commissioner TODAY and tell them to reject NorthWestern’s proposal.

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Commissioner For District 1
Randy Pinocci
(406) 444-6166

Commissioner For District 2
Tony O’Donnell
(406) 444-6165

Commissioner For District 3
Roger Koopman
(406) 444-6168

Commissioner For District 4
Bob Lake
(406) 444-6167

Commissioner For District 5
Brad Johnson
(406) 444-6169