Helena, MT -

A state economist says if changes aren't made to Northwestern Energy's $900 million plan to buy 11 hydroelectric dams, customer prices could be higher for years.

Montana Consumer Counsel economist John Wilson told the Public Service Commission Tuesday that NorthWestern should be open to compromises that put more of the risk and costs on the company and its shareholders. He says the proposed deal guarantees profits for Northwestern and is very lucrative for the stockholders of PPL Montana and Northwestern.

Wilson spoke during the second week of a two-week public hearing held by the commission at the state Capitol to determine whether the deal is in the public interest.

Northwestern officials say the purchase of the dams will assure that customers have stable rates in the future.