Proposal would hike electric bills

MidAmerican Energy customers in Fort Dodge will see their electric bills rise by about $3 a month starting with the one they’ll receive in September, a utility official said Monday.

That increase will be the first part of a proposed rate hike to be phased in through 2016, according to Dean Crist, the vice president of the utility who handles regulatory issues. He said average residential bills will rise by about $8 a month when the increase is fully implemented.

But Crist said that residential customers will later see their monthly electric bills go down slightly over a decade as the utility moves all of its customers into a unified rate system. Currently,

MidAmerican Energy customers across Iowa are in three different rate systems.

Crist explained the rate increase proposal Monday afternoon at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites, 1518 Third Ave. N.W. The session was sponsored by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

Crist said MidAmerican Energy is asking the Iowa Utilities Board for permission to raise electrical rates by a total of $135 million. He said that’s nearly an 11 percent increase.

”We’ve tried to keep this as low as possible,” he said.

If approved, the increase will be the first one for

MidAmerican Energy since 1995. However, Fort Dodge customers have seen their electric bills rise by up to $5 a month recently in order to pay for underground power lines along Fifth Avenue South and Kenyon Road. The cost of burying power lines along First Avenue South between Veterans Bridge and South 29th Street this year will also be tacked onto the monthly bills.

The utility is not seeking to raise its natural gas rates.

The rate increase will be phased in from 2014 to 2016. However, Crist said the company can begin collecting a portion of the higher rate in August while the Iowa Utilities Board considers the proposal.

He said the rate for residential customers will go up by $2.73 a month starting with the bill that they’ll receive in September for August’s electrical use.

The monthly electrical bill will rise by another $2.75 starting in 2015.

In 2016, it will rise by $2.68 per month.

The residential rate will rise a total of $8.16 per month when the increase is fully implemented.

According to Crist, the average residential bill in Fort Dodge is now $84.47 per month.

”We are 40 percent below the national average on rates,” he said.

He said even after the proposed increase is in place, MidAmerican Energy will be the 10th lowest in the nation in terms of electricity rates.

Another adjustment for all customers will come after the proposed increase is in place. That one will reduce the average residential bill by 14 cents a month over 10 years as MidAmerican Energy consolidates its rate structure.

Because today’s

MidAmerican Energy includes part or all of three older utility systems, its customers are in three rate groups. To get all the residential customers into one rate group, some will see an increase and some will see a decrease. Fort Dodge, which is part of the eastern rate group with Davenport and Bettendorf, is an area in which a reduction is needed to help unify the rate groups.

The Iowa Utilities Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. July 2 at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites to hear public comments on the proposed rate increase. The board isn’t expected to make a decision until next April.