Letter: Energy efficiency can meet needs – Billings Gazette, Oct. 18, 2016

I was shocked to read the front-page Billings Gazette article on Oct. 11, about NorthWestern Energy’s plans to build 500 to 600 megawatts of natural gas power plants starting in 2019.

Unfortunately, NorthWestern Energy continues to overlook the cleanest, cheapest, and fastest way to meet Montana’s energy needs — energy efficiency.

The least costly power is power we don’t use. Smart utilities enact robust energy efficiency programs to help their customers make needed upgrades — reducing customers’ expensive peak usage. NWE, on the other hand, is doing little to support energy efficiency.

One way to reduce energy use, save people money, and create local jobs is Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which leverages private money from banks, credit unions, and investors to finance energy efficiency upgrades to homes and businesses.

Many people do not pursue energy efficiency because they lack the up-front cash. PACE offers 100 percent funding for projects with zero upfront costs and no credit check necessary, through a property assessment over a term of up to 20 years. Projects are designed so your energy savings are greater than your repayment costs.

Doesn’t it make more sense to enable private financing for private properties to make energy efficiency upgrades, rather than make all ratepayers pay billions for new infrastructure that does nothing to address carbon emissions?

Mary Fitzpatrick