LETTER: Setting the Record Straight on Renewable Energy Costs

By Beacon Staff

I was extremely disappointed in Dave Skinner’s coverage of Montana’s Renewable Energy Standard (Sept. 1 Beacon: “Power Tripping”). Montana’s 15 percent by 2015 RES is spurring the development of clean renewable power in Montana and that’s good for Montana’s economy. Wind development generates local tax revenue, supports family farms and ranches, and helps protect our clean air and water.

But instead of focusing on all the good that wind development can do for Montana, Skinner chose to focus on a requested rate hike from Montana Dakota Utilities (MDU). That rate hike is requested, but has not yet been approved by the Public Service Commission. But while we wait on a PSC decision on this, let’s delve into the facts.

Oil and gas development in the Bakken formation is arguably the only significant factor in MDU’s growing demand for electricity. Since new contracts to meet that increased demand are going to cost more than old contracts, we can safely say that oil and gas development are ultimately to blame for the rate hike.

Meanwhile, MDU’s North Dakota customers recently received a 30 percent rate hike. But this has nothing to do with wind or renewable energy either. In fact those customers are looking at a rate hike due to MDU’s role in an abandoned coal project.

It makes you wonder why MDU and writers like Skinner ignore all the evidence that indicates that fossil fuels are expensive and renewable energy is cheap.

To find an example of how wind power is cheap power, you need look no further than NorthWestern Energy. Wind energy from Judith Gap, at 4.2 cents/kWh, is actually helping to keep electric bills down.

Once you look past the smokescreen, the choice is clear. We need to move toward more clean energy, not just for the environmental benefits but for the economic benefits as well.

Jeff Arcel
CEO, Mother’s Power, Inc.

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