December 27, 2021
It’s been a busy few weeks at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The PUC is charged with approving the rates that the state’s regulated utilities can charge for their electric and natural gas service.
And right now, the state’s biggest electric and gas utilities are all requesting rate increases.
“It’s definitely a lot of these happening at the same time, more than normal,” said Annie Levenson-Falk, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, which advocates for the state’s residential utility customers.
It’s not just the number of rate requests that’s notable. “These are really, really large rate increase requests, much larger than you would typically see,” said Levenson-Falk.
Xcel Energy, the state’s largest electricity provider, is asking for a rate hike of about 21 percent over three years. That would mean a monthly increase of between $12 and $21 for the typical residential customer.
Meanwhile, Duluth-based Minnesota Power, the state’s second largest utility, is asking for an increase of about 18 percent. That equates to about $15 a month extra for a typical household.
But bills won’t go up that much immediately. It will take the commission over a year to decide on those rate requests.
In the meantime, the PUC approved smaller, interim rate hikes. On Jan. 1, customers of both Xcel and Minnesota Power will see their typical residential bills increase by about $5 to $6 per month.
The utilities initially asked for significantly larger interim rate increases. But in an unusual move, the PUC made a special finding of what’s called “exigent circumstances.”
“The PUC recognizes that some folks are really struggling with affordability of energy right now,” Levenson-Falk said. “And they want to do everything in their power to help folks be able to continue to afford their electricity and gas.”
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