What can Montanans expect to pay for natural gas and electricity when winter arrives?

We spoke to Jo Dee Black, Public Information Officer for Northwestern Energy who said, without providing any specific numbers, that Montanans’ power bills will reflect the rate of inflation.

The current rate of inflation for energy sources is 7.5 percent.

“Northwestern Energy works very diligently to secure enough capacity for our customers so that we can meet their energy demands, including peak demands, especially in the winter when that is critical, reliably, at reasonable prices,” began Black. “We've been doing that all year. We have applied for some rate increases and those rate increases are in line with inflation.”

Black was careful to state that the majority of Northwestern Energy’s power will come from ‘carbon-free sources’.

“Our energy portfolio comes from 60 percent carbon-free resources, and that does include hydro, our wind resources here in Montana, and some solar,” she said. “We own a share of Colstrip (coal-fired energy plant). That is a very cost-effective, reliable resource that we can count on to provide energy when we need it at reasonable rates.”

Black said because Northwestern Energy cannot produce all the energy Montanans need, some must be purchased on the open market.

“We are building more today at peak energy demand,” she said. “We are still in the market purchasing energy at times of very high demand by our Montana customers for about 40 to 50 percent of the energy we need, and that's exactly why we're building more capacity. We are building the Yellowstone County Generating Station south of Laurel that will help add capacity to our portfolio serving Montana.”

Black said Northwestern Energy has specific programs to help those in need to pay their energy bills.

“Anytime people are concerned or maybe struggling to pay their energy bill, we want them to reach out to us,” she said. “There are programs and payment plans that we can assist with and our customer service team is ready to help them access and get some referrals to those programs and also to help them set and arrange some flexible payment options.”

One program is called by the acronym LIHEAP (The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program). Click here for details.

We have also reached out for more details on upcoming power bill increases to the Montana Public Service Commission.

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