On Friday, January 19th, the Montana Senate & House Energy Committees hosted the Public Service Commission and held a public hearing on Northwestern Energy’s 20-year procurement plan. You can listen to the full meeting here.

House and Senate Energy Committee members, Public Service Commissioners, and Northwestern Energy representatives:

My name is Caitlin Piserchia, and I’m here on behalf of Forward Montana where I work as the conservation outreach fellow. We’re a statewide organization that builds power with and for young Montanans. I’m also a Northwestern Energy customer, as are most of our staff, members, & volunteers.

When we register voters, most of them young Montanans, we ask folks what issues are important to them. Conservation and economic justice are issues that consistently rise to the top — and these two issues reflect the vision we have for the next two decades for the Northwestern Energy’s resource procurement plan.

Young Montanans are facing an uncertain future. We have more student debt than any generation before us and we are graduating high school and college to find fewer and fewer good-paying jobs. We are entering the workforce in a state that continues to stake its future on an energy mix that includes dirty energy sources subject to boom and bust cycles, energy sources that much of our country is rapidly moving away from.

We also know that our changing climate will affect our generation and generations to follow in a way we haven’t seen before. Chaotic shifts in climate also undermine important industries that all Montanans depend on in our state, like agriculture and recreation. Continuing down our current path as a state and country is like playing Russian roulette with the ecosystems that sustain our communities, and we know that we’ll be living with the consequences in the prime of our lives.

With this in mind, we want to see NWE, the PSC, and our state legislators work towards a stable, vibrant future for our generation and those that follow.. This means supporting industries that bring good, sustained jobs to rural places. This means investing in clean energy sources that strengthen our state and make our communities more resilient. Northwestern Energy’s wind projects are currently the cheapest energy source for ratepayers. And across the country, wind projects have been seen to strengthen rural communities by providing much needed tax income. We know this has panned out in Montana; a report from the Montana Department of Commerce last January found that Montana wind farms contributed approximately $66 million in total property taxes from 2006-2017. That $66 millon means more money to repair roads and local infrastructure.

Further, the US Department of Labor reports that wind and solar jobs are the fastest growing jobs in the country — and even better, these are jobs that are insulated from the boom & bust cycles of other energy sources.

It’s abundantly clear that investment in renewable energy is the best solution for ratepayers, for my generation, and for rural communities across Montana.

In the 2019 plan, NorthWestern needs to protect its customers by modeling a scenario where the Colstrip power plant closes by 2027 or earlier, in line with the closure date that other Colstrip owners are planning for. The plan should also model the cost of replacing Colstrip with clean energy and and consider multiple options for meeting future energy needs with clean, renewable energy.

As an organization, we strongly urge Northwestern Energy to stop pursuing costly, risky, and dirty energy sources at the expense of ratepayers when we could find a solution that works for all of us. Instead, invest in the future of our state for Montana’s ratepayers, workers, and for my generation, so we are not burdened down the line by shuttered industries, expensive energy rates, and dirty, antiquated energy sources that make our state more volatile.

We ask all the decision makers present today to help shepherd in a renewable version of Montana’s energy future. And we would love to help build it.

Thank you very much for your time.