After receiving a report that customers of Northwestern Energy will be paying more this winter for heating their homes and businesses at the rate of inflation, approximately eight percent, we reached out to Missoula Electric Cooperative for their winter rate forecast.

Manager of Communications and Public Relations Kelsey Lodge provided some background information about the members-only energy cooperative.

“The Missoula Electric Cooperative is a local cooperative started in 1936 to serve rural communities, farmers ranchers in western Montana,” began Lodge. “We serve now seven districts throughout Western Montana as well as a sliver of Idaho as well; that’s a little over 13,000 members.”

Lodge said despite the fact that Northwestern Energy customers will be seeing rate increases this winter, Missoula Electric Cooperative members will not.

“As far as rates go, at Missoula Electric Cooperative our rates have not been raised since May of 2017,” she said. “We have no rate increases scheduled at this time. Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) hasn't released final rates for 2024 through 2025, so it's really too early to tell what that foreseeable future looks like for the cooperative. Our goal in any change that we make is to truly consider our members first.”

That being said, Lodge said her office receives calls every day from Missoula and western Montana residents who would like to switch from Northwestern Energy to Missoula Electric Cooperative.

“You would be surprised,” she said. “We get that call multiple times a day that a lot of folks out in the community want to be members of Missoula Electric Cooperative. However, it really is dependent on where you live and what zip code you're in. Truly, the address on your home dictates whether you're a Northwestern Energy customer, a Missoula Electric Cooperative member, or whether you're a member of a different cooperative.”

Lodge said MEC members receive prompt service in case of a downed line or power outage.

“We really pride ourselves on member service,” she said. “We have our Members Service Desk staffed Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We have an on-call service center that will take those calls after hours, and we always have an on-call team of linemen as well. They're out there ready to respond to any outages and then they can call in for backup if necessary.”

The Missoula Electric Cooperative website states that they offer a 95 percent carbon-free portfolio to their members using primarily hydropower.

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