Five Reasons NorthWestern Energy’s Electricity is More Expensive than it Needs to be

By David Merrill, Senior Organizing Representative

Recently, the Montana Public Service Commission approved NorthWestern Energy’s last portion of its massive rate increase. The utility’s residential customers are now paying electricity rates  28% above August 2022 rates. 

Here’s why NorthWestern Energy’s electricity is more expensive than it needs to be:

#1-NorthWestern Energy claims that it needs new, expensive natural gas plants for reliability.
All over the world solar, wind and batteries are providing reliable electricity service. The prestigious Rocky Mountain Institute reports that clean energy portfolios composed of wind, solar, batteries, energy efficiency and demand response can cost-competitively provide the same electricity with the same reliability as gas plants. 

#2-Focus on profit rather than keeping electricity affordable.
NorthWestern Energy is a multi-state, profit-making, monopoly energy utility.  Its entire focus is on increasing returns for its shareholders, not on providing the most affordable electricity. Its customers have no other options for their electricity service.

#3-Exorbitant pay of executives.
NorthWestern Energy CEO Brian Bird”s compensation is measured in the millions and is worth over $50,000 per week. The average Montanan makes roughly $60,000 per year. For comparison, PV Magazine USA reported that in 2020, Pedernales Electric Cooperative in Texas paid their CEO $437,450, which is under $8,400 per week.

#4-Lobbying the Montana Legislature to support its pro-fossil fuel, anti-renewables agenda.
NorthWestern Energy employs lobbyists who then push for their pro-fossil fuel, anti-renewables program among elected officials in Montana.

#5-The Montana Public Service Commission enables rather than challenges NorthWestern Energy’s pro-fossil fuel, anti-renewables agenda.
The Public Service Commission is supposed to represent the public interest. But it has not pushed the utility to pursue cheaper electricity alternatives such as solar and wind power despite their obvious value.
We need to keep these things in mind when looking at our electricity bills.

It doesn’t have to be this way.