Letter to NorthWestern Energy

Dear Bob Rowe, CEO of NorthWestern Energy:

Our communities — the young people of Montana, their loved ones, and their allies — ask NorthWestern Energy to adopt The Bright Communities Commitment. The Bright Communities Plan has 4 pillars:

  1. A commitment to 100% clean, renewable electricity by 2030
  2. A complete halt on new fossil fuel infrastructure
  3. Definite retirement dates for dirty plants already in operation
  4. Justice and equity for marginalized communities

We are living through an unprecedented moment that requires all of us to step up and work together to envision the path to a brighter future. This will require so much more than what was outlined in NorthWestern Energy’s recently released “Net Zero by 2050 Plan.” The tactics and targets laid out in that plan are not enough to maintain a livable climate. It has left us wondering, was it just a PR stunt? 

What truly worries us is that your document is a plan. It is a plan that sets us on a path of increasing environmental damage and threats to public health – an untenable future where wildfires and megadroughts are the norm and where people cannot afford to live here due to expensive and volatile utility bills — all while your corporation grows its profits. The Bright Communities Commitment presents a better way forward. 

Our four demands are in line with science, utility best practice, economics, and NorthWestern’s prior commitments. The world’s foremost climate science organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recently released the final portion of their 6th Assessment Report, a compilation of thousands upon thousands of climate studies. The conclusion? Ecosystems have changed beyond recognition. Catastrophe has struck sooner than predicted. People are dying. Thankfully, they have also found that we can limit warming to 1.5º C (in line with the Paris Agreement’s goals of “well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C”) if our emissions peak in the next three years. 

Other utilities have shown acting in this timeframe is possible. In fact, your own consultant, Ascend Analytics, has conducted studies and resource planning processes to deliver on much more ambitious plans. For instance, they conducted a study that found the Nebraska Public Power District can likely get to 90% carbon free electricity by 2030 at little to no added cost. They also implemented a resource procurement planning process for Peninsula Clean Energy which already provides 100% carbon-free electricity to 300,000 customers in San Mateo County.  

Furthermore, a Montana study found that we can get to 100% clean electricity by 2035 while slashing customer costs. Ascend Analytics’s modeling presented at your May Electricity and Telecommunications Advisory Committee meeting explained that the levelized cost of wind and solar is on par with methane gas — with much fewer risks! There is also huge potential for job growth. Montana is ranked 5th in the nation for wind potential, and yet, we rank 25th in terms of actual built wind generation and 48th in terms of wind jobs. The story for solar is similar, where we rank 49th in jobs. Our generation is eager to find opportunity in the state, and we know that you can help make that vision a reality.

Finally, these demands are in line with the interlocal agreement by the cities of Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena and your own Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Missoula and Missoula County. 

Simply put, these goals are necessary for our survival, and they are within reach. There is no other option for our generation.

Sign on to this letter telling Bob Rowe to Stop Burning Our Future!