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Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

More rate hikes are likely coming to Wyoming’s Rocky Mountain Power customers

Transmission lines against a partly cloudy sky.
Michael Kappel
Flickr Creative Commons

The largest electricity provider in Wyoming is proposing rate hikes to customers again.

Rocky Mountain Power, a division of the six-state utility PacifiCorp, is asking the state to approve an average of a 12.3 percent hike to its 144,511 Wyoming customers’ bills. It’ll be dispersed a little differently based on if the customer is a large, commercial operation or a typical resident – the latter will likely see a slightly smaller hike of about 9.3 percent or about $12 more per month.

This is part of its annual energy cost adjustment – basically where the company looks at the actual costs of providing electricity the year before and how that measures up to what customers were charged, and based on that difference, either proposes a 12-month rate hike or reimbursement. In this instance, Rocky Mountain Power says the cost of providing electricity last year was more expensive than they budgeted for.

“I think the most significant driver of this year's cost adjustment involves coal supply, and inventory restrictions that occurred,” said David Eskelson, a Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson. “As with any commodity, when supplies are scarce, prices go up.”

The company listed a couple reasons as to why. One being the war in Ukraine.

“...many U.S. mines, including mines in Utah and Colorado, rushed to take advantage of high coal prices by exporting coal to Europe,” according to a press release.

Another reason was a fire at the Lila Canyon coal mine in central Utah, which eventually led to it shutting down in November 2023. The mine was responsible for nearly 25 percent of Utah’s coal production.

“We had to basically run our plants in Utah a little less than we normally would have, which had to be replaced by natural gas generation, for the most part, and that's generally more expensive than the coal units,” Eskelson said.

This rate hike will have to be approved by the Wyoming Public Service Commission before being implemented in July. There’s also a federal tax utility credit as part of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 that’s running out this summer.

“Over the past three years, we have been returning the benefits of those tax adjustments back to customers, according to a schedule that was agreed to with the Public Service Commission in Wyoming,” Eskelson said. “And the benefits of that tax reduction have been completely returned to customers as of July first this year.”

So, with the tax credit going away on top of the proposed rate hike, the average residential Wyoming customer could pay about $16 extra per month for electricity starting in July.

This’ll be the second year in a row Rocky Mountain Power has requested rate hikes. Last year, the company requested two, amounting to a historically large almost 30 percent increase. After much public backlash, many meetings and some miscalculations on the company’s part, the Wyoming Public Service Commission approved a much smaller 8.3 percent rate hike that went into effect Jan. 1 this year.

“Well, we certainly understand that any discussion of a price increase is not good news,” Eskelson said.

But, he pointed out that electricity rates for the company’s Wyoming customers is still well below the national average. And, the company offers some programs for those who can’t afford their electric bills.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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