The Nov. 19 opinion piece by NorthWestern Energy’s Crystal Lail left me confused.

Lail noted that the market price of energy can spike, which can cost ratepayers quite a bit. But what wasn’t mentioned is that NorthWestern’s latest “resource plan” calls for building a bunch of new natural gas power plants, which are also dependent on the energy market. Those plants would require natural gas to operate and the price of the gas can easily spike too. Both in 2006 and 2008, the price of natural gas at the “Henry Hub” (a proxy for natural gas prices nationwide) jumped from $6/MMBtu to $ 12/MMBtu, likely putting a big hurt on ratepayers that were dependent on gas plants.

The lesson from Lail’s column is actually that we should reduce our exposure to volatile energy markets, not increase it like NorthWestern wants to do by building gas plants. Renewable energy like wind and solar do just that. They have no fuel (sunshine and wind are free), so they’re not dependent on energy markets.

If you agree, be sure to send in comments to Montana’s Public Service Commission by Jan. 3 on NorthWestern Energy’s procurement plan.

Marta Meengs,


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