NorthWestern Energy submitted a new electricity rate structure proposal to the Public Service Commission that is anti-choice, anti-small business, and anti-progressive energy policy.

When a residential customer puts solar panels on their roof, NWE installs a “net meter,” which records how much energy is used from the solar system vs. from the electrical grid. Annually, the customer will “true up” and either give (with no compensation) NWE the extra electricity produced or pay for the kilowatt hours used from the grid. 

NWE proposes a new rate structure for residential solar customers. While the $5.60 monthly charge to be connected to the electrical grid and the per kWh cost of any electricity used from the grid are reasonable, NWE wants to add a new monthly “demand charge.” Demand charges now apply to large industrial customers that put a “demand” on the grid during high electricity use times of day. Residential customers never put a high demand on the grid so this is punitive. It is also cost prohibitive because it would add $50 to $70/month in charges to a solar customer’s bill. NWE also proposes that if the property is transferred (sold), the new home owner has to start over from scratch with NWE to set up a net-metering account.

This is wrong. Many states, red and blue, recognize that we need to move to more renewable, sustainable energy sources, and these states encourage private solar. NWE needs to move into the 21st century. NWE will continue to sell energy – at a profit – even with private solar in the mix.

Because this monopoly utility is regulated by the PSC, we, as citizens – and captive electricity consumers and customers – need to speak up and tell the PSC to deny this proposal. Please contact Roger Koopman, our PSC representative, at RKoopman@mt.gov.

Beth Kaeding

Bozeman