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NorthWestern Energy residential bills to drop this month

The electricity bill for NorthWestern Energy residential customers is slated to drop slightly this month from last month
Power Line
Posted at 3:06 PM, Jan 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-03 17:06:40-05

The electricity bill for NorthWestern Energy residential customers is slated to drop slightly this month from last month — from $112.94 to $105.14 — according to the utility.

The amount includes at least one factor that is still subject to review and verification by the Montana Public Service Commission, the Daily Montanan reports.

NorthWestern Energy spokesperson Jo Dee Black said the new amount a typical residential customer will pay reflects three main changes.

A drop in NorthWestern’s property taxes, which flow through to customers’ rates;An annual rate adjustment filing, which was amended after the PSC approved a settlement with the utility in October; and a new quarterly rate adjustment filing.

In a unanimous vote in October, Public Service Commissioners approved a settlement agreement proposed by NorthWestern Energy that increased the electricity bill of an average residential customer 24% from August 2022 — to $112.94.

However, the all-Republican five-member PSC will be hearing motions to reconsider that case, likely early in 2024. The PSC regulates monopoly utilities in Montana.

In the meantime, the typical residential customer will pay $7.80 less a month, or $93.60 less a year, when comparing last month’s and this month’s rates.

In part, the new rate reflects a $6.95 reduction per month — or $83.40 a year — because the state reduced NorthWestern’s property taxes.

In 2022, NorthWestern’s property tax liability was $178 million, Black said. In 2023, it will drop roughly 20%, to $142.7 million.

“Property taxes are a flow-through cost to customers, and the decrease will be reflected in customer rates beginning Jan. 1. 2024,” Black said in an email.

Lucas Hamilton, chief legal counsel for the Public Service Commission, said the change from the adjustment in taxes generally takes effect without approval from the commission.

However, Hamilton said, the commission has the ability to delay final implementation if it finds an error in the utility’s calculation.

The new rate also accounts for changes made in an annual rate adjustment filing — a 46¢ increase — and the first adjustment to be made on a new quarterly cycle — a $1.31 reduction.

Those regular adjustments typically account for commodity prices, such as energy purchases, which NorthWestern paid on the open market in the most recent tracking period and passes onto customers.

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