I was very proud and excited to see Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins deliver a letter to NorthWestern Energy last week. This is a crucial time for thinking about Montana’s electricity future. Right now two critical processes are unfolding which will affect NorthWestern Energy ratepayers for years to come.

The first is the NorthWestern Energy rate case. This rate case is where NorthWestern Energy tells the Montana Public Service Commission how much it wants to charge customers for electricity. It recently came to light that in 2008 NorthWestern Energy was allowed to put $407 million into the rate base for NorthWestern’s 30% share of Colstrip Unit Four, even though they only paid $187 million dollars for it! That’s great for NorthWestern Energy shareholders. Not so great for ratepayers who for over ten years now have been paying higher electricity rates as a result.

The second process is the NorthWestern Energy resource procurement plan. This is where NorthWestern Energy lays out the types of energy they want to procure for the next 20 years. Coal is on its way out and Mayor Collins said that Colstrip needs to be looking to the renewable energy that is the future.

Last week the U.S. Dept. of Energy reported that in the United States, for the first time ever, renewable energy produced more electricity than coal in April. Yet in its draft resource procurement plan there is no evidence that NorthWestern Energy is planning for a post-Colstrip electric grid.

This lack of planning and transparency is creating risk for NorthWestern Energy ratepayers. I’m glad to see a Montana mayor is sticking up for all of the people who pay electricity bills in Helena, and across Montana, by raising these concerns in a highly public way.

Mary Sedwick