What Do I Say in my Comment?

Here is where you can read the procurement plan for yourself: http://www3.northwesternenergy.com/environment/energy-supply

We would offer this advice in writing your comments.

Tell the company who you are and what’s important to you:

  1. If you’re a NorthWestern Energy ratepayer, tell company officials how many years you’ve paid their monthly bills. Thank them for their reliable service. Ask them to respond to your concerns.
  2. Tell them why you’re writing. If global warming and Montana’s changing climate is your concern, tell them. If you think CEO Bob Rowe’s idea of purchasing more coal-fired electricity is a bad idea, tell him. Explain that it’s expensive and will likely saddle ratepayers like you with a higher cost for electricity and more clean-up costs. If you think wind and solar — with backup battery storage or hydro pump storage — makes the most sense, tell them.

Possible comments on the 2019 procurement plan:

  1. The plan makes the case that NorthWestern Energy needs more power during peak loads during the summer and during the winter. If you think conservation (insulating buildings, better building standards, etc.) should be a part of the solution, tell them.
  2. After making the case that it’s running short of supply during peak loads, so far so good, the company drops the ball. The plan is supposed to guide Montana’s path to reliable and inexpensive power in the next 20 years. The company’s had three years to decide what path to take but, instead, says it will postpone a decision until it opens a request-for-proposals process. What a cop-out! The Public Service Commission allowed delay after delay without requiring the company to hold public hearings or gather ideas from its customers (Did you see a poll? I didn’t.), and now it’s delaying the decision again? That’s very negligent and disrespectful. What kind of power does it think is reliable and most cost-conscious? How much does power cost from wind? solar? methane? coal? conservation? How about a clear chart that shows us? The company should be open and transparent, respectful of the people who pay its bills. Us!
  3. What ever happened to looking ahead? We’re tired of the woe-is-me and need a little more of the can-do! Coal is a nineteenth century technology. Distributed energy such as rooftop solar, battery packs, small-scale wind, connected to electric vehicles — what many call a smart grid — is clearly part of the future. Why can’t NorthWestern Energy be more like Excel Energy in Colorado, which is phasing out coal and methane generators in favor of renewables and innovative storage when peak loads put extra demand on the system? Why can’t NorthWestern Energy be more like utilities in eastern Oregon, which are building wind and solar farms, backed by batteries, to be on-line by 2021 for powering over 100,000 homes? Why can’t NorthWestern Energy embrace companies like Orion Energy, which wants to build a wind farm 60 miles from Colstrip and transport electricity over existing powerlines to power the homes for over 100,000 customers?
  4. NorthWestern Energy needs to compare its prices and its technology to other states in the West. Maybe its ratepayers could see how Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming, and California are planning their future. Maybe a chart would be in order?
  5. Did the plan consider, at all, this whole buying 150MW of Colstrip? It absolutely must or else the plan is fundamentally flawed. The company was clear about its support for these crazy legislative bills well before the draft was released. It creates the storyline that this is a political document to meet the company’s corporate strategy, not a technical plan.
  6. Did the plan model solar paired with battery storage? If you pair batteries with solar on the same site then it can access the federal Investment Tax Credit. If you do solar and batteries separate then it doesn’t get the ITC, which greatly changes the economics. I suspect the plan did not model solar+storage.