Rowe: NorthWestern Wants to Invest in Montana

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Bob Rowe, the new president of NorthWestern Energy, said the company wants to own power production facilities in order to stabilize prices.

“My hope is that, if you look at it a few years down the road, we will be an innovative company…,” he said. “We will do it better, more creatively, more responsibly and (provide) real value to the communities in the state that we serve.”

Rowe, 53, an attorney, business consultant and former member of the Montana Public Service Commission, was named the president and chief executive officer of NorthWestern Energy on Wednesday.

He said he initially declined the job offer, but accepted when board members made it clear they want to build a utility that will invest in the state for the long term.

NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas to 320,000 customers, mostly in western and central Montana.

Rowe said the company’s share of the Colstrip 4 power plant and a proposed natural gas-fired plant near Anaconda are part of the company’s plan to stabilize prices, along with possible “new, cost-effective green resources.”

Rowe was a member of Montana’s PSC, which regulates utilities, from 1993 to 2005. He has since been a partner in a consulting firm — Balhoff, Rowe and Williams — which has worked for NorthWestern the past two years on business plans and other items, including analysis connected to the company’s failed sale to the Australian firm, Babcock & Brown Infrastructure.

Rowe said his annual salary at NorthWestern is $500,000.

Rowe was named president and CEO the day Mike Hanson resigned the same position. The company gave no reason for Hanson’s leaving, other than to say it was a board decision. NorthWestern spokeswoman Claudia Rapkoch said the company would have no further comment on Hanson’s departure.

According to company documents filed earlier this spring, Hanson received $1 million in compensation in 2007, including $432,000 in stock awards. However, Hanson did not receive an incentive award because of the failure of the proposed sale to Babcock & Brown, an employee fatality during the year “and other discretionary factors,” documents said.