Roger Koopman’s recent YourTurn editorial on renewable energy was shockingly wrong. Mr. Koopman is a Public Service Commissioner elected to be an expert on issues related to utility regulations. However, it would appear that he hasn’t done a basic utility power cost analysis and he hasn’t read the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Contrary to his editorial, renewable energy contracts purchased by NorthWestern Energy according to Montana’s legal requirement are saving Montanans money. As an example, the power purchased from the Judith Gap wind power facility costs far less than power purchased from Colstrip unit 4.
Apparently, Mr. Koopman would have Montana ratepayers buy more expensive power while simultaneously trading away our clean air and water for thousands of tons of regulated air pollutants from the nation’s ninth-largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
More importantly, not only does renewable power often cost less, but the Renewable Portfolio Standard clearly indicates in MCA 69-3-2007 that NorthWestern Energy must only meet the standard if the renewable power is cheaper than that from other sources. Commissioner Koopman also erroneously asserts that all utilities must meet the 15 percent standard, while in reality, the majority of them (rural electric cooperatives, municipal utilities, etc.) do not.
Instead of playing politics, I hope Mr. Koopman actually reads Montana’s utility laws. I also hope he does his homework and studies the economics of power generation. It’s his job after all.