Black Hills Energy is asking the state Public Utilities Commission for a package of rate hikes to help pay for a gas-fired generator in Pueblo to replace its coal-fired plant in Cañon City, which closed in December 2012 under pressure for clean-air advocates.
Black Hills is asking to create tiered rates for customers who use higher amounts of energy, similar to the summertime rates charged by Xcel Energy.
The utility also wants to raise its minimum monthly residential rate from $16.89 to $20.13. The charge covers fixed cost such as a connection, meter and billing to maintain service at a home, separate from the amount of energy the home uses.
Black Hills' net-metered solar customers pay up to 50 percent more. The utility is asking for a monthly charge of $25.45 to recover the cost of a second meter, which measures solar energy production, as well as a higher energy use charge.
Since its last rate request in 2012, Black Hills' net-metered solar customers have increased by 400 percent and the cost to serve these customers has grown by 140 percent, according to the state consumer agency.
Based in Rapid City, S.D., Black Hills serves 95,000 customers in 52 communities, including Cañon City, Florence, Pueblo, Rocky Ford and Westcliffe.
The rate hikes are part of the utility's effort to recoup the cost of the new generating station. After examining costs the Public Utilities Commission lowered the amount Black Hills could recoup from ratepayers from $8.5 million to $636,267. Black Hills has appealed that amount to the courts.
The PUC could hold a hearing to accept or adjust the proposed package of rate increases or ask administrative law judge to hold the hearing and consider the judge's recommendation, but that decision hasn't been made yet, said Cindy Schonhaut, the director of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel.
The PUC will take public comments until at least November, depending on when the hearing is set.
Comments can be emailed to dora_PUC_complaints@state.co.us, or mailed to 1560 Broadway, Suite 250, Denver, CO 80202.