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Xcel Energy granted interim rate increase for natural gas delivery

Dave Thompson, Prairie Public
North Dakota Public Service Commissioners Randy Christmann (l), chairman Julie Fedorchak and Brian Kroshus

Xcel Energy natural gas customers will see their monthly bills go up by an average of $5.60, as the Public Service Commission has granted the utility an interim rate increase.

The utility does not set the rates for the natural gas itself – but only on getting the gas to the home of business. It is separate from the pass-through gas cost, which is about triple what it was last year.

Xcel had filed for a rate increase on delivering the gas to customers. It has not had an increase since 2006. And state law says a utility is entitled to an interim increase, while the PSC works on the filing.

"The timing is less than ideal, given the high price of natural gas currently," said Commissioner Brian Kroshus. "It's roughly tripled from where it was one year ago."

Kroshujs said he understands why Xcel is bringing a case.

"We have a responsibility to make sure that service to customers across the state, and within any utility's footprint, is done efficiently, and in particular, safely," Kroshus said. "It's just less than ideal, given the price spike in natural gas. And that will fall on the backs of consumers and businesses."

Kroshus said if the PSC ultimately finds the interim rates are higher than the final rate decision, consumers will get a refund.

Meanwhile, the PSC Has scheduled an informal hearing with Xcel tomorrow (Thursday), to look at how the utility will be collecting the increased charges for natural gas. Kroshus said he’s hoping to spread that cost out over several months, to try and lessen that impact.