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Energy

Montana Consumer Advocate Seeks Electricity Rate Change Dismissal

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Montana Public Affairs Network
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Montana Public Affairs Network
Acting Consumer Counsel Jason Brown speaks to the Montana Public Service Commission Wednesday.

The state advocate for Montana electricity consumers is asking regulators to dismiss a request from NorthWestern Energy to increase what it charges for power.

The Montana Consumer Counsel presented its arguments for dismissal at a Montana Public Service Commission hearing Tuesday afternoon.

One June estimate from NorthWestern says the average residential customer could see an increase of nearly $4 to their monthly bill. That number is subject to change.

At the Tuesday hearing, NorthWestern attorney Ann Hill asked commissioners to let the utility present its position.

“We want to show you how crazy the market has been since this base was set in 2019,” Hill said.

NorthWestern Energy is seeking an increase to its base rate—a stable dollar amount customers pay on top of what NorthWestern collects on an annual basis to recover costs of providing electricity. This requested increase is outside of the scheduled process that takes place every couple of years when the company asks for changes in what it can charge for power. Regulators determine if that’s fair and reasonable.

Acting Consumer Counsel Jason Brown argued Tuesday that NorthWestern must request this change to customers' bills as part of that regular process.

“You can simply say ‘Look, NorthWestern, there is no commission approval to change the base rate. If the rates are insufficient, you can file a rate case,’” Brown said.

Brown said changing the base rate in a standalone proceeding could end up putting too much financial burden on the consumer. The Commission did not come to a decision on whether to dismiss the case Tuesday.