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Plug it in, plug it in: North Dakota sees increase in electricity use


More western North Dakota residents are plugging in, and it doesn't seem like it is going to slow down.

"In remote areas, electric heat gets used a lot more, so that adds to the energy usage and electricity consumption for sure," said Carl Pedersen, a North Dakota State University Extension Service energy educator.

North Dakota had the third lowest average monthly retail price for electricity in the nation at 8.13 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Idaho landed first place with 7.99 cents per kwh, and Washington was second with 8.04 cents kwh.

"We've got lignite coal and an abundance of it," Pedersen said. "It is a very inexpensive energy source."

North Dakota did beat the national average monthly consumption of 958 kwh by consuming 1,121 kwh per month.

Pedersen said there would be more use in western North Dakota due to an oil boom.

"Especially where you are at you are going to have a lot more electricity use because these houses that are going up are going up quick, and you got trailers that are using up all this extra electricity," Pedersen said. "Even the oil rigs are going to be using gobs and gobs of electricity."

Pedersen said the charts show residential use, so energy used for industrial purposes would not play a factor in the statistics from the EIA.

Roughrider Electric Cooperative Inc. has seen a 3.6 percent increase in electrical purchases from 2009 to 2010, said Leonard Hibl, director of key accounts and marketing. He also said the company expects a 4 percent increase in this year's use.

"Our number of consumers has gone up," he said.

Hibl said more people are buying electricity in rural areas. Last year, Roughrider Electric had 4,991 rural accounts and 2,645 residential accounts. He added this was an "indicator that more people are moving out into the country."

"There is a lot of excitement going on around the city," he said. "(The increase) is a very healthy indicator, and we are very happy with that."

Hibl said it was a steady increase, but he predicted that usage would continue to rise over the next couple of years.

"There is no way we will know until it happens, but that's what all the indicators are that, over the next five years, exploration will continue and production for many years after that."