MTPR

NorthWestern Energy

A screen capture from a NorthWestern Energy video shows a powerline corridor that must be cleared of hazard trees to help prevent wildfires.
Screen capture from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kH464TvlSo

Montana utility regulators say NorthWestern Energy must spend at least $3.2 million a year on removing trees near power lines. Regulators are worried that power company equipment could spark flames similar to the devastating wildfire in California last year that killed more than 80 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.


NorthWestern Energy is asking state utility regulators to sign off on the company’s request to increase their customers’ electric bills by $23.8 million for one year. This surcharge is in addition to a $6.5 million rate increase commissioners approved late last month.


State utility regulators are nearing the end of a massive review of what Northwestern Energy charges its customers and what the company makes in profit. Several regulators this week are arguing over how the public was notified that they’ll likely see an increase in their electric bills.

NorthWestern Energy building in Butte, Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Public Service Commission has approved a $6.5 million rate increase for NorthWestern Energy customers, less than 20 percent of the increase the utility initially sought.

Power line.
(PD)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A power outage affected at least 12,000 customers throughout Montana's capital Thursday, darkening traffic signals and public buildings and delaying a women's basketball game being attended by 19 busloads of elementary school students.

The outage that began shortly before noon and left many areas of the city of 32,000, along with neighboring East Helena, without power. According to the Independent Record, power was restored by 1:42 p.m. for most customers.

Montana’s largest utility company is reviewing its electric rates for the first time in 10 years and one provision has people worried that the new rates could hurt clean energy progress in the state.

A party-line vote late in a Montana House committee Friday is advancing the controversial bill that gives NorthWestern Energy incentives to buy a larger share of the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

The National Weather Service is calling it a historic winter storm, bringing strong winds, heavy, wet and blowing snow and record cold temperatures to much of Montana starting tonight. As residents prepare for this early winter event so is a major utility.

A winter storm at this time of year means there are still leaves on the trees and tree damage is likely. And that means downed power lines.

NorthWestern Energy building in Butte, Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

A Montana District Judge says state utility regulators erroneously gave NorthWestern Energy a pass from a legal requirement to buy power from local small-scale renewable energy projects. 

A Heli-Feller, a piece of equipment designed to cut and hold the tops off trees, allows helicopters to assist ground crews clearing the areas around power lines.
Rachel Cramer / Yellowstone Public Radio

As fire season starts to heat up in Montana, the threat of electrical power lines igniting dry forests is raising concerns. Power lines started the deadliest and most expensive fire in California history last November, the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

The threat of vegetation falling on Montana power lines has increased in recent years due to the rising number of beetle-killed trees.

NorthWestern Energy building in Butte, Montana.
Nora Saks / Montana Public Radio

Environmental advocacy groups and the state’s largest utility company are arguing over how much customers should pay for power coming from the coal-fired power plant in Colstrip.

For the first time in 10 years Montana regulators are revisiting NorthWestern Energy’s ownership at Colstrip in a big picture look at how much the company earns and charges its customers.

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