NorthWestern Energy’s Attack on Residential Solar

The future of rooftop solar is on the chopping block at the hands of Montana’s monopoly utility.

What’s going on with this “rate case”?

For years, NorthWestern Energy (NWE) orchestrated various policy attempts to discourage their customers from having energy choices, like going solar and generating their own power. We’ve been there to fight them tooth and nail to uphold policies that help Montanans choose a clean energy future. But NWE’s latest attempt to crush the rooftop solar industry (by way of manipulating electricity bills) is completely unfair and discriminatory.

NorthWestern wants to punish rooftop solar to maintain control over YOUR energy choices. It’s clear that this company doesn’t believe in energy freedom for Montanans if it interferes with the profits they enjoy as a monopoly power company.

What is NorthWestern asking for?

The company is proposing several changes that will have devastating impacts to residential solar customers, the most important being a new type of charge on their energy bills called a demand charge. NorthWestern is proposing that residential solar customers pay $7.69 for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they use during their single highest energy usage hour in each one-month billing cycle.

The demand charge has nothing to do with rooftop solar or net metering, nor does it relate to times where there is excess strain on the grid. “Demand” charges are sometimes paid by commercial and industrial users that put sudden very large demands on the grid.  These demands are much higher than any demands from residential customers.

All in all, we see this as a gimmick to add punishing charges to people with rooftop solar. Rooftop solar does not change a customer’s maximum demand.  But only rooftop solar customers would pay a demand charge.  It could add $50 per month, or more, to your bill.

The demand charge could make it impossible to save money on your energy bills by investing in solar.  Your bills, after adding rooftop solar and generating much of the electricity you use, might be nearly the same (or even higher) than those without rooftop solar.  NWE would get most of the benefit of your investment in solar. Click here to see examples of how rooftop solar customers would be unfairly punished.

What can I do to help?

The decision-maker in this rate case is a 5-person elected body called the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC). They represent YOU as the ratepayer’s (that’s you and me) first line of defense, and thus they should be taking your position into account. Write them comments, call them, talk to them, and request that the Public Service Commission reject Northwestern Energy’s proposal for a new net metering rate class. We won’t stand for this and neither should you!

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

  • Submit online comments by following the steps below:
    1. Visit  and select Documents and Proceedings > Comment on a Proceeding.
    2.  Continue as a guest and enter your contact information.
    3. In the Tracking # field, enter 2018.02.012 and hit “tab.” The Tracking Name and Item fields will auto-populate.
    4. Use the talking points above to write a personalized message in the Comment box.
    5. The document attachment section is NOT required. After entering your comments, click Submit.
  • Email your comments to the Montana Public Service Commission at and reference Docket/Tracking #: 2018.02.012
  • OR… call your commissioner by referencing the map and contact information below.

(click map below to enlarge)










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

Our position:

Members of Northern Plains care passionately about our children and grandchildren, and we want to ensure we’ve provided them a good life and future. Transitioning to clean energy is imperative if there is going to be a future for them at all. There are measures we can take on our own to make this a reality, like installing rooftop solar on our homes, and but now NorthWestern Energy wants to rip that opportunity away.

NorthWestern Energy wants to penalize anyone who produces their own power because NorthWestern is only in favor of power sources that they own and on which they legally receive a return on investment, on your dime. As an investor-owned utility, NorthWestern’s responsibility is to its stockholders…NOT their customers, the everyday people of Montana.  NorthWestern Energy wants to maintain the status quo without giving us a choice in the matter. We, on the other hand, believe in the power of everyday people to engage, stand up to corporations, and have a say in the decisions that impact their lives. So stand with us and contact your Public Service Commissioner today!

Questions? Ready to write a letter to the editor? Email Makenna or Sydney, or give us a call at (406) 248-1154.