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Industry News

Montana Power Asks for Gas, Power Rate Hikes

LCG, Aug. 14, 2000--Montana Power Co. on Friday asked state regulators for permission to increase "wires" charges to its residential electricity customers by 12 percent and "pipes" charges to its core natural gas customers by 9 percent.

The utility told the Montana Public Service Commission that the increases were required to cover costs associated with inflationary increases in operating costs, increased property and energy taxes and plant additions and upgrades. It also said it wanted to earn higher returns on equity which would make it easier to compete for investment dollars among peer companies with similar risks.

The electric distribution increase would amount to 21.2 percent for those customers who have switched to alternative power suppliers, the company said, and the gas distribution increase would be 14.3 percent for non-core gas transportation customers.

The company noted that delivery charges make up about half of its electricity customers total bills and about two-thirds of natural gas bills.For the typical residential electric customer using 750 kilowatt-hours a month, the proposal meansmonthly bills, on average, will go from $47.62 to $53.38, for an increase of about $5.76 a month or $69.12 a year. The actual impact will be higher in the winter and lower in the summer, the company said.

For a typical residential natural gas customer using 10 dekatherms a month, average monthlybills will increase from $58.21 a month to $63.27, an increase of $5.06. Again, the hike will hurt more in the winter, less in the summer.

Jack Haffey, executive vice president in charge of Montana Powers energy services division, said of the request, "It represents a four-year catch-up filing for the electric utility as rates have been frozen for two years and only modest increases were allowed two years prior to that. Meanwhile, for the gas utility, it represents a further step in the process of determining what it actually costs to provide delivery-only services to customers."

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