Natural gas price increase considered for Minn. Energy Resources

Published 8:58 am Monday, May 30, 2011

Gas could be priced higher for some area residents, but not just at the pump.

Minnesota Energy Resources has proposed a natural gas rate increase of about $5.46 to a typical home’s monthly bill — about $13.7 million overall — because conservation and more efficient homes are leading to reduced fuel and energy usage.

“We’re certainly in favor of the conservation, but it does reduce revenue — that’s a fact,” said

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Greg Walters, regulator and legislative affairs manager.

“Obviously house are being built better than they were 15 to 20 years ago and beyond,” he added.

Minnesota Energy Resources has customers in the Brownsdale, Lansing and Waltham areas.

While customers are saving money by conserving, Walters said companies’ costs for equipment, hook-ups and general maintenance continue to increase.

“I think you’re seeing it with all utilities,” he said.

Plus, the company has to ensure its system and equipment is up to date.

There is a positive side: Unlike unleaded gasoline, natural gas prices are steady.

“The good news is, natural gas itself, the cost of the product, has remained fairly stable,” Walters said.

Still, Walters said companies encourage green standards.

“We certainly encourage customers to conserve,” he said.

The rate increase is still about a year out. Minnesota Energy Resources must go through the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission in order to enact the change.

Along with state hearings, a public hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. June 23 in Rochester at the Olmsted County Government Center, Room 104, 151 Fourth St. SE.

The company has installed a interim rate increase, which has increased average monthly bills of general service residential sales from $76 to $78. If the rate increase is approved for less than the interim cost, the company will refund the overages.

Minnesota Energy Resources’ last rate increases were in 2000 and 2008.