Consumers blast NW Energy’s proposed rate change for rooftop solar systems

Consumers blast NW Energy’s proposed rate change for rooftop solar systems


state regulators are close to wrapping up a two-week hearing on Northwestern Energy’s electric rate case before the Public Service Commission on Wednesday and Thursday however the focus wasn’t on general rates but rather on how northwestern wants to treat rooftop solar customers intense Mike Dennison has the details on the solar power aspect and the overall case northwestern Energy’s initial proposal called for a 35 million dollar a year electric rate increase for its 360,000 Montana customers a seven point four percent increase for residential consumers but at the beginning of last week’s hearing northwestern and several parties in the case offered up a settlement that would increase rates just six point five million dollars a year or less than one percent yet what remains unsettled is northwestern’s new proposed rate structure for customers who install rooftop solar power systems right now those customers use the excess power they generate to offset any consumption at the same price any other customer pays for power northwestern is proposing a new demand charge for new solar power customers based on peak level consumption and that proposal was roundly denounced Thursday by solar power advocates I couldn’t leave a better way to kill this industry in fact it’s false what it seems like it’s designed to do if you will decimate numerous industries scores of people told a BSc Thursday that the rate would make solar power systems so costly that few would be installed in Montana they also disputed northwestern’s claim that the systems impose noticeable costs on other customers and the company apparently less than 1% of Northwestern’s customers have solar yet the company would have you believe that these few customers are harming Northwestern Energy’s financial health that harm doesn’t show up in the company’s 2018 annual report David bender an attorney for both solar argued on Wednesday that the proposed rate penalized solar metered customers for reducing their energy purchases customers reduced their electricity purchases from the utility should not that cannot be treated differently depending on whether those deductions come from self generation or from any of the many other reasons people can control their consumption the big-money questions on rates in this case are mostly settled but as we heard Thursday the future of local renewable power in Montana is still very much in play reporting from Helena Mike Dennison MTN news the PSC will make its final decision in the coming weeks on these solar power rates in the rest of this case which is Northwestern’s first general electric rate case in nine years

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