Minnesota Power gets half of requested rate increase

Minnesota Power received permission to increase its customers’ interim rates by about half of what it requested, according to a Tuesday ruling by the state Public Utilities Commission.

In November, the Duluth-based electric utility filed a request to increase rates by $73 million in an interim basis beginning Jan. 1. Tuesday’s ruling granted an increase worth $48.5 million in the interim, a commission spokesperson said.

Minnesota Power wanted to permanently increase rates by about 20 percent, but it received permission to increase rates 11 percent in the short term.

The request would have raised the average residential customer’s monthly bill by about $13, but now the increase appears to be closer to $6 or $7.

The proposal would be on top of a recent $20.4 million increase approved by the state and already being charged.

Last Friday, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson asked the commission to deny the rate increase.

“As we enter the winter heating season, our citizens are struggling with a tough economy and high unemployment rates. The company filed this $73 million rate increase request before the ink even dried on its last $20 million,” Swanson said in a written statement. “The PUC should not allow the company to jack up rates on individuals and small businesses during these troubled financial times before it even proves the rates are necessary.”