The first time I ran for the legislature, a community leader asked me that question. “What did I feel the Montana state energy policy should be?” My answer was, “Uh, don’t really know, but I’m sure the rates are too high.”
Like me four years ago, most of us probably have not given the state energy policy much thought. How many of us know who made the policy, and what state agency has the responsibility of administration? The Montana legislature established the policy in 1993 with SB 225, and in 2011 the legislature added 24 supplemental policy goals. The Public Service Commission is made up of five elected commissioners and they are the decision makers.
I am writing because a very important decision is going to be made soon. NorthWestern Energy has formally submitted their application for approval of the acquisition of PPL Montana’s Hydroelectric Generating Facilities in Montana. The PSC is in the final decisionmaking process and they need to hear from us, the rate payers. They are touring the state holding listening sessions in many communities. Ravalli County is included with stops in both Stevensville and Hamilton on May 9th. We need to be there and they need to hear our thoughts. Here’s why.
Where should our electric energy come from, in state or the open market from wherever the best rates can be procured? The PSC has to consider both the industrial users’ needs, and us, the citizens. There are plenty of ways for the industrial users to get their needs and concerns communicated, but it’s not so easy to get us ratepayers to express our thoughts. We don’t have many groups or organizations to represent us, we are more like a yard full of butterflies… getting us to land on the same branch is difficult. That’s why this traveling listening tour is so vital. This is our chance to sit in the same room, at the same table and talk with them.
If the purchase is approved it will mean that NorthWestern Energy’s renewable energy portion, using both hydro and wind, could be as much as 50%. Long term affordability is an important goal for all of us. Will this give us the stability and security we want? A lot of you say, yes it will. However, others don’t agree and the task of the PSC is to sort through all of the proposals.
However you feel about hydro and its percentage of the mix, make it known.
What is a fair price to obligate the ratepayers to long term? The final outcome of the application to purchase these assets will affect our energy policy for a long, long time.
So, what is your energy policy? Be prepared with your thoughts, don’t be like me a few years ago. What we think matters and the time to communicate those thoughts is now. Save the date and mark your calendar for May 9th.
Can’t make the listening session? Then please go to the PSC website: psc.mt.gov
Bob Lake is the commissioner from our district. A lot of you know Mr. Lake, contact him, he will be pleased you did.
Ed Greef, Representative HD 90