Regulators approve interim rate hike for Minnesota Power customers

December 2, 2021

Duluth News Tribune

Jimmy Lovrien

The 7.11% increase will take effect in January.

Minnesota Power customers will see bills go up beginning Jan. 1.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission on Thursday morning unanimously approved raising rates for the company’s residential customers by 7.11% and its industrial and commercial customers by 14.23%. The rates will be in place while regulators consider the company’s full 17.58% rate hike request.

Under the interim rates approved Thursday, the typical residential customer would see monthly bills increase by about $5.89, according to the company.

In November, the Duluth-based utility company and two consumer advocacy groups agreed to cut the temporary rate increase for residential customers by half — from 14.23% to 7.11% — to help lessen the blow to customers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During deliberations Thursday, Commissioner Valerie Means said she supported such a move because of the size of the increase and its timing during pandemic, especially when the moratorium on service disconnection has ended and many residential customers are still behind on electric bills..

“While there’s no specific data in this record, the commission can take judicial notice, if you will, that the pandemic has had negative impacts on the economy, and that residential customers have been affected and can make a finding that this unusual situation — unique in Minnesota’s history and unique in the commission’s regulatory history — demands unusual action,” Means said.

In a Thursday afternoon news release, Minnesota Power the approval was “the first step of a longer process to evaluate Minnesota Power’s most recent request to change its rates.”

“We appreciate the MPUC’s approval of interim rates and the efforts of stakeholders to reach a compromise on a reduced interim rate for our residential customers,” Minnesota Power Chief Operating Officer Josh Skelton said in the release.

In the joint letter filed last month by Minnesota Power, Energy Cents Coalition and Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota, the company said it would support the 50% cut in the residential interim rate hike if regulators allowed them to “establish a tracker for future recovery of the difference between proposed and approved interim residential rates.”

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Author: Hannah Hoeger

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