HELENA - Montana-Dakota Utilities on Thursday filed to increase its electric rates by an average of 13 percent for its Montana customers in Eastern Montana, citing the increased costs of renewable power, such as wind power.
The increase, if granted by regulators, would increase the average homeowner's electric bill by about $100 a year.
MDU, based in Bismarck, N.D., serves about 24,000 customers in Eastern Montana, including those in Miles City, Glendive, Sidney, Forsyth and Wolf Point.
MDU President Dave Goodin said the company has worked "extremely hard" at watching its operating expenses, but that it needs to recover the costs of investing in renewable power and its overall transmission-and-distribution system.
Goodin said the bulk of the $5.5 million annual increase in rates is to pay for the company's investment in wind power and other renewables. This year, MDU expanded its Diamond Willow wind farm near Baker by 10.5 megawatts and also added a 19.5-megawatt wind farm in southwestern North Dakota.
Montana law requires electric utilities to generate at least 10 percent of their power sold in the state from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal.
Under current rates, the average MDU household customer pays about $708 a year for electricity. The increase, if fully im-plemented, would hike that amount to about $810 a year, a 14.5 percent increase.
Business customers would see increases that are slightly lower.
The Montana Public Service Commission will examine the rate-increase request and make a decision on it within the next several months.
The increase would put MDU's Montana rates among the upper half of utilities in the region - although they'd still be less than rates charged by NorthWestern Energy, the dominant electric utility in Montana.