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Electric utility seeks rate hike affecting many in county

Mar 30, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Riverton-area and Lander residents could see their electricity bills jump up $4.50 a month on average next year if a proposed price increase from Rocky Mountain is approved. Overall, rates would rise about 5.3 percent for its customers, according to the company.

Wyoming's Public Service Commission would have to approve the increase. Rocky Mountain Power plans to raise prices in 2014 in line with its annual price adjustment, which already has been approved.

Improvements to its service made the requested special price hike necessary, according to the company.

"This requested price increase is needed to support the growing costs of maintaining reliable electric service for our Wyoming customers," said Rita Meyer, Rocky Mountain Power vice president for Wyoming.

The $4.50 average price is based on a residential customer who uses 780 kilowatts of electricity a month. Under the proposal, actual rates would rise from 4.8 cents a kilowatt to 5 cents a kilowatt for the first 500 kilowatts each month and from 11.4 cents to 11.8 cents for each kilowatt after that.

Rocky Mountain Power serves Lander, rural areas west of Lander, many Riverton residents, and the region east of Riverton including Shoshoni.

Planned projects totaling $2.3 billion across the company are driving the price hike, according to the company. Wyoming customers would pay for part a new natural gas-fueled power plant in Utah that is to come on line this summer, as well as recently finished transmission line.

Company spokeswoman Margaret Oler said the company invested in capital projects in Fremont County in 2012 as well. It rebuilt a power line serving Riverton Memorial Hospital and Central Wyoming College, she said.

"There was upgrading of a variety of electrical facilities throughout the Riverton district --

connecting and upgradings services to new and existing customers, including residential commercial and irrigation," she said.

Other work is in progress, Oler said including aviation protection projects. Those projects try to protect birds by installing features on electrical facilities to deter birds from perching on them. A lengthy power outage earlier this month in Riverton was blamed on an animal problem at a substation, but not necessarily a bird.

The company does not keep reliability data at the local level, but its state-level information shows an improvement.

"Overall, the company's reliability has been improving over the past seven years, and we have consistently seen a decrease in customer outage minutes," she said.

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