Credit: Eliza Wiley/MTFP

This story is excerpted from the MT Lowdown, a weekly newsletter digest containing original reporting and analysis published every Friday.

The Public Service Commision, the state’s elected utility board, is hitting the road this week to discuss NorthWestern Energy’s loosely sketched plan for meeting its anticipated energy demand over the next two decades.

Starting Monday with an appearance in Great Falls, commissioners will hear what constituents like, or don’t like, in NorthWestern’s 2023 Integrated Resource Plan. In that plan, Montana’s largest electric utility eyes gas plant generation and pumped hydropower, a technology that’s been proposed but not implemented in the state.

The commission weighs in on the plan as part of its charge to balance the health of NorthWestern’s finances with the concerns of the monopoly utility’s customers, who aren’t able to shop around for other utility providers if they don’t like what the utility is offering — or charging for its service. Through a pre-approval process or a rate case (like the one the PSC is currently deciding for NorthWestern’s $81 million electricity increase), the commission’s work will intersect with any major power-generating acquisitions.

All listening sessions, except the one scheduled to take place in Helena from 12 to 2 p.m., will take place in the evening from 6 to 8 p.m. First up is Great Falls on Monday, followed by Helena on Tuesday, Billings on Wednesday and Butte on Thursday. Missoula is last in the mix with a session scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 22. Details about each location’s meeting are available here


Amanda Eggert studied print journalism at the University of Montana. Prior to becoming a full-time journalist, Amanda spent four years working with the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. After leaving the Forest Service in 2014, Amanda worked for Outside magazine as an editorial fellow before joining Outlaw Partners’ staff to lead coverage for Explore Big Sky newspaper and contribute writing and editing to Explore Yellowstone and Mountain Outlaw magazines. Prior to joining Montana Free Press’ staff in 2021 Amanda was a freelance writer, researcher and interviewer. In addition to writing...