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Measuring scope of utility rate hike activity in MN

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Tuesday, December 19, 2023   

Temporary rate hikes sought by a handful of utilities in Minnesota are taking effect.

Consumer advocates are still monitoring long-term proposals and expressed concern about the timing for ratepayers.

In recent weeks, Minnesota Power, CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy have received the green light from state regulators for short-term rate increases while their permanent request cases are considered. One case deals with electricity service and the other two are for natural gas.

Annie Levenson-Falk, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota, said as the companies address aging infrastructure, proposals can be expected. She added something noteworthy is happening.

"Each utility is going to have their own reasoning behind their rate hikes," Levenson-Falk noted. "It's also important to remember that each of these utilities just received a very recent rate hike within the last year to year and a half, and they are now back for another rate increase."

Levenson-Falk pointed out some requests are more routine than others. But the "back-to-back" requests come as Citizens Utility Board filings with the state show utility disconnections in the region are now higher than pre-pandemic levels. Minnesota Power said its rate hike plans balance the need for reliable service in taking steps to reduce carbon emissions. CenterPoint recently released a similar statement.

The Citizens Utility Board is still analyzing the long-term plans to shape its opinion about them, but Levenson-Falk anticipated calling for moves with minimal effects on customers. As the cases move forward, she urged consumers to speak up.

"These rate hikes are not done deals," Levenson-Falk emphasized. "They need to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission, and the Public Utilities Commission is asking for public comments. They want to hear from people who are affected and how it's going to affect them."

She added you can look for opportunities to submit written comments or to participate in future public meetings. And if you are income-eligible, you are encouraged to apply for energy assistance to help with your monthly bill.

Levenson-Falk stressed the sooner utilities can transition away from sources such as natural gas, customers won't have to shoulder as much of the burden of fuel price market swings.


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