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PSC Requests Information On Electric Power

Last week, at a meeting of the Montana Public Service Commission, commissioners voted unanimously to exercise its investigatory authority to obtain information from the Treasure State’s two largest regulated power supply utilities, NorthWestern Energy and Montana-Dakota Utilities, regarding each utility’s performance during the January 2024 severe weather event.

The commission determined the recent extreme cold snap provides the commission the opportunity to further examine how reliably and efficiently existing power generation customers can be satisfied during periods of high demand caused by extreme weather conditions. The investigative authority is in keeping with the docket opened in September 2022 by the commission to investigate resource adequacy throughout the Western Region and risks to Montana’s electrical supply (Docket No. 2022.09.087).

The information gathered from NorthWestern Energy and other parties will be made part of that docket.

The PSC is gathering this information as part of its responsibilities to ensure resource adequacy and examine potential risks to the electrical supply for Montana consumers. Under Montana law, the Public Service Commission: “…has the authority to inquire into the management of the business of all public utilities, shall keep itself informed as to the manner and method in which the business is conducted, and has the right to obtain from any public utility all necessary information to enable the commission to perform its duties.”

PSC president James Brown said of the letter, “The extreme cold weather event all Montanans recently experienced gives the commission the opportunity to examine in depth the performance of the electrical demand and supply system during peak demand times to ensure that it can perform safely, reliably, and efficiently for all Montanans.”

Commissioner Tony O’Donnell added, “This inquiry will allow the PSC and all Montanans to understand what our electric utilities are doing to prepare for very harsh winter conditions here and in the wider region to prevent damages, even to loss of life. We need to understand what resources are available to NorthWestern and MDU to keep the lights, and heaters, on.”

The letter requesting information from NorthWestern Energy can be found in Docket No. 2022.09.087 in the Montana Public Service Commission’s REDDI electronic docket management system on the agency’s website at:

A similar letter requesting information will also be sent to Montana-Dakota Utilities.

The commission regulates private investor-owned natural gas, electric, telephone, water, and sewer companies, certain motor carriers, and oversees natural gas pipeline safety and intrastate railroad safety. The commission works to ensure that Montanans receive safe and reliable service from regulated public utilities while paying reasonable rates.

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