Rocky Mountain Power, which supplies electricity to 146,000 customers in Wyoming, has applied to the state's Public Service Commission for an rate increase of 1.1% to take effect in January, according to its application filed Wednesday.

"We feel this is a very modest increase, and includes an actual decrease for industrial customers," company spokesman Spencer Hall said.

If approved by the Wyoming Public Service Commission, the rate increase would generate an additional $7.1 million for the company and amount to an average of $3.69 more a month per residential customer, Hall said.

The commission will conduct its own investigation of the request, spokesman Chris Petrie said.

"That's the primary job of the Public Service Commission to review the requests of public utilities, and to approve only that which results in safe, adequate and reliable service at just and reasonable rates," he said.

Hall said besides the proposed rates for residential customers, the application includes new rates for commercial businesses, heavy industry and agriculture.

The company, a division of the Salt Lake City-based PacifiCorp, has not requested a rate hike in five years and the time has come, Hall said.

"Just like any business, businesses have to adjust with different costs that come on," he said.

"In this case, we made a pledge several years ago that we wouldn't raise rates through 2020, and that's a difficult thing in any business to say, 'hey, your price is going to be the same for the next couple years,'" Hall said, adding Wyoming has some of the lowest energy prices in the country.

Rocky Mountain Power met that promise, and in the meantime the company made capital improvements in the transmission system and converting a unit from coal to natural gas at the Naughton power plant in Kemmerer, he said.

The application said the requested rate increase is driven by continuing capital investments worth $6.2 billion, with $823.8 million allocated in Wyoming, and new depreciation rates.

The capital projects include three new wind facilities as part of its Energy Vision 2020 program; a 500-kilovolt transmission line from the Aeolus substation near Medicine Bow to the Jim Bridger Power Plant near Point of Rocks; and to retire a coal-fired plant near Joseph City, Ariz.

The rate change request, Hall added, is separate from the company's recent announcement that it would retire some coal-fired power plants early, which prompted an investigation by the Public Service Commission.

The application starts a calendar of deadlines before the rate increase is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1.

The Wyoming Public Service Commission will publish a formal public notice of the application and a call for public comment and intervention by interested parties, then will set a schedule a decision in 10 months, PSC spokesman Chris Petrie said.

One public hearing is scheduled in Cheyenne for Oct. 12, but Petrie said he didn't know if there would be others elsewhere.

Intervenors also can request hearings. Intervenors have included the Office of Consumer Advocate, Wyoming Industrial Electric Consumers, AARP, lodging and restaurant associations, homeowners associations, and individual customers, Petrie said.

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