By Ken Toole:
NorthWestern Energy customers are about to get shocked with a huge increase in their electric rates if the Public Service Commission grants NorthWestern Energy’s request to increase residential rates. The public hearings are over and final legal briefs are being submitted. But, like a cancer waiting to metastasize, it has not gone away, and it will wreak havoc on the very people who can least afford it.
Don’t be fooled by efforts to minimize the impact of this rate case. Residential customers are facing a 28% increase in their rates compared to a year ago. And thanks to a “negotiated settlement” reached by the big guys (the utility, the state, and large customers) large users won’t see any increase at all. Bottom line this increase falls unfairly on small customers like you and me.
The average residential customer will have to come up with an additional $284 annually or more. Some people may be able to afford it. Some folks can go out and find another job to make ends meet but lots of people can’t do that…particularly Montana seniors. They will be choosing between paying their power bill, buying food, paying rent or purchasing medicine.
While we are waiting to hear how much residential rates will increase, large investors are buying up NorthWestern stock. On May 15 Market Beat reported that six “institutional investors” are increasing their holdings of NorthWestern stock. They are watching this rate case and they like what they see — for stockholders.
The corporate largesse doesn’t end with investors’ stock purchases. In 2022 NorthWestern CEO, Bob Rowe, received over $3.3 million in total compensation. Rowe, now retired, has been replaced by the former Chief Operations Officer, Brian Bird. In 2022 Bird made over $2.6 million. For comparison, Mark Johnson, the manager of the state’s largest electric co-op, makes a little over $450 thousand per year.