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PSC takes input on rate increases

Only a couple of Dickinson residents attended a public input meeting Tuesday about proposed increases in Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. rates and they shared their thoughts.

The Public Service Commission meeting was held due to MDU's application in April to increase rates by $11.5 million, or 10 percent, according to MDU officials. The increase is needed because of investments in electric facilities and a loss of wholesale electric sales, according to MDU.

Dickinson's Joe Rothschiller, a MDU customer and Steffes Corp. president, wants MDU to give consumers a chance to offset the increase, he said at the meeting.

During the meeting, which was held at Dickinson State University, Bismarck and Williston residents were also able to give opinions over interactive television.

"MDU could develop a program with a time-of-day rate, or an off-peak rate that would allow consumers to either voluntarily shift their energy usage,

or to invest in technology ... that helps them shift their usage without them even knowing it," Rothschiller said. "I don't see those incentives from MDU."

He said it would allow consumers to manage their energy and save money, which would save MDU money on their peak demand.

Dean Summers, a Dickinson MDU customer, is opposed to an increase.

"I think the cost of business is risky and I don't think the consumers should bear the brunt of that," he said. "I think maybe 5 percent is reasonable, but 10, that's a pretty big bullet to chew."

The PSC will ultimately decide whether the increase is justified.

The hearing on the matter is set for Nov. 8 and 9, Public Service Commissioner Tony Clark said Monday.

"If a consumer or a business group or anybody wants to 'intervene' in the case, they need to officially get what they call intervener's status," Clark said. "So basically if somebody decides to become an intervener, they apply with the commission and they say that we have standing in this case."

He expects a PSC decision by December.

MDU set an interim rate of 7.91 percent which took effect June 18, Clark said.

"It basically allows them to start recovering right away, but if ultimately the commission decides that those rates aren't right, it gives the customers the opportunity to get all the money back, plus interest."