A recent, October 22, decision by the Montana Public Service Commission will result in Montana rate payers saving millions of dollars, and may lead to big changes in the future.

The PSC decided that Northwestern Energy had overstated the amount of money it would lose through its energy savings programs; programs that consists of things like promoting the use of fluorescent light bulbs. PSC chairman Bob Lake said that customers that practice more energy efficiency deserve to see lower costs, but that that hasn't always been the case.

"What I don't want to see is the individual who, that, you know, really starts doing everything they possibly can to conserve energy only to find out that the rates have gone up because of the calculation by the utility. So, that the people who are actually sacrificing aren't the ones that are getting the benefits from it."

Lake said last week's 5-0 decision has sparked a more thorough investigation into how companies are reimbursed for energy efficiency programs.

"It's probably going to be several months of study, really digging into what is the benefit to the consumer, should the utility be able to recover some of the lost revenue, and then also, how do you calculate that?" Lake said. "That's probably the biggest thing: the calculation of the savings."

Even if the PSC does find changes that need to be made in the way companies calculate the losses due to efficiency programs, Lake said that those changes will likely need to involve either state or federal legislatures.

Bob Lake: