FARGO Xcel Energy on Tuesday asked the North Dakota Public Service Commission to authorize an increase in base electricity rates, citing investments to operate, maintain and expand its nuclear plants and electricity grid as key drivers in the case. Xcel Energy serves nearly 90,000 customers in North Dakota.
The request represents a 9.25 percent increase in customer rates overall. As part of the filing, Xcel Energy is seeking implementation of interim rates effective Feb. 16.
Under the interim rate proposal, a typical residential customer's monthly bill would increase by about 8.6 percent, or about $7. If the commission approves final rates that are lower than the interim level, Xcel Energy will refund the difference plus interest.
"While we have worked to manage costs and increase our efficiency, we are not able to avoid this rate request," said Laura McCarten, Xcel Energy regional vice president. "We understand the impact of this proposed increase on our customers, and while all customers pay the costs of keeping our system robust, customers can reduce their individual costs by participating in programs we offer to help manage and lower bills."
McCarten said customers expect safe and reliable electricity service. "We have been investing more than $1 billion a year in our Upper Midwest system to meet those expectations. Almost 90 percent of this request is to recover investments in our nuclear plants and our regional and local electric grid system, needed to assure reliable cost-effective service now and into the future. The balance of the request is for costs associated with investments in other power plants and business cost increases."
Nearly half of the company's $16.9 million request is related directly to continued operation of the Monticello and Prairie Island nuclear plants and to expand the output of the Monticello plant. The two nuclear plants produce 30 percent of the energy on Xcel Energy's system in the Upper Midwest.
Transmission system upgrades that benefit all of Xcel Energy's Upper Midwest customers and distribution system improvements in North Dakota are other significant reasons for the proposed rate increase. Among investments included in the case are substation upgrades benefiting several North Dakota communities and investments to restore and improve our flood-damaged system in Minot.
The North Dakota Public Service Commission is expected to hold public hearings in the spring of 2013.
Following review by the commission, final rates could take effect in the fall of 2013.