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NorthWestern Energy Addresses Helena-Area Billing Concerns and Questions

Feb 14, 2017

Butte, Mont. – February 14, 2017 – Cold weather and inaccuracies in estimated bills are behind concerns about high energy bills among NorthWestern Energy customers in the Helena area.

In January 2017, NorthWestern experienced technical issues with meter reading equipment in some areas of its Helena Division. As a result, some customers received January bills based on estimates rather than actual meter reads. The estimates were based on usage levels in the same time period a year earlier, which was significantly warmer than that same period in 2017.

Bills received in February are based on actual meter reads and reflect true energy consumption and often include greater charges due to increased energy usage. NorthWestern estimates that the bills of about 2,300 customers in Townsend, Radersburg, Toston and White Sulphur Springs were affected by the difference in estimates versus actual energy consumption. A smaller number of customers in the Helena and East Helena area were also affected.

NorthWestern Energy apologizes for the impact this equipment failure had on customer bills.  We also work to avoid estimating energy usage whenever possible. We are working to provide proactive communications when we have equipment failures that affect customers in the future.

NorthWestern Energy’s electric and natural gas rates have not risen significantly in recent months. As a regulated utility, our rates are thoroughly reviewed and approved by the Montana Public Service Commission with involvement from independent third parties.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your statement, please contact us at 888-467-2669. Also, feel free to speak directly with one of our Customer Associates at our Helena Customer Service Office. The office, located at 1313 N. Last Chance Gulch, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

So far, winter in our service territory has been colder than normal – 16 percent colder in December and 26 percent colder than normal in January. This is a wide departure from this time last year when the weather started out average and then turned warmer than average in February.

The increased demand is showing up in customer bills across our Montana service territory as usage increased significantly due to the prolonged and persistent cold. Customers are encouraged to look closely at the comparisons provided on their bill that displays usage patterns for the current billing period compared to the previous billing period and the same time last year. The corresponding average daily temperatures over the periods are provided to highlight the correlation between usage and weather.

Customers are also encouraged to call us right away if they are worried about their ability to pay high winter bills. Options ranging from individual payment installment plans to information on how to access emergency bill assistance through federal, state and non-profit sources are available.

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About NorthWestern Energy (NYSE: NWE)
NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 701,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at www.northwesternenergy.com.


Media Contact:
Butch Larcombe
(866) 622-8081
butch.larcombe@northwestern.com

 
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