Extreme weather events prompt increase for Wyoming electric customers

CASPER, Wyoming—Rocky Mountain Power has requested the Wyoming Public Service Commission review and approve an increase to customer bills totaling 4.0 percent, or $26.3 million. If approved, the average residential customer using 660 kilowatt hours per month will see an increase of approximately $1.97 per month.

Rocky Mountain Power has asked for the change to take effect July 1, 2022, subject to a later true-up based on the commission’s analysis and final decision. The change would appear as a separate line item on customer bills.

“We recognize that no price increase is welcome. Still, we’re committed to bringing the best value to our customers for their hard-earned dollars, and we’re acutely aware that we provide one of the most essential public services,” said Sharon Fain, Rocky Mountain Power’s Vice President for Wyoming. “Our prices are among the lowest in the country and we’ve worked hard to keep our expenses low.”

When customer rates are set in a general rate review, included are the variable costs of providing electric service, such as fuel and wholesale electricity purchases. As these costs fluctuate every year, the annual cost adjustment is used to account for changes during the previous year. This can result in either an increase or a decrease to customer bills.

Extreme and unforeseen weather events that occurred in the West in 2021 had a significant impact on wholesale market prices. A heat wave in June and July of 2021 caused wholesale electric market prices in the Northwest to spike during high customer demand hours. The spikes were 620 percent above normal in June and 560 percent in July. Similar price spikes occurred in Southwest markets, which saw average increases during high use hours of 464 and 150 percent. Natural gas market prices were also affected. In 2021 prices at the major natural gas trading hub in the West were 137 percent higher than 2020. Continuing drought in the Pacific Northwest has also reduced the availability of low-cost hydroelectric resources.

Although Rocky Mountain Power generates more than 80 percent of the energy it supplies to customers at power plants it owns and operates, the company buys and sells wholesale power from other utilities to help balance the transmission network. Most of the time, this wholesale energy is reasonably priced and provides clear benefits to customers. In fact, revenues the company makes from power sales to wholesale buyers are credited back to customers as part of the annual cost adjustment. Another factor in this year’s adjustment is that revenue from these sales decreased, further impacting overall power costs.

“We work diligently to provide safe, reliable electric service at reasonable prices, and to control costs,” Fain said. “These annual power cost adjustments track costs that are beyond the company’s direct control. This mechanism ensures our customers do not overpay or underpay for the electricity they use.”

For customers who may need assistance with their power bill, help is available. Rocky Mountain Power customer service representatives have information on assistance programs for customers who qualify. Call us a 1-888-221-7070, or visit our website, Bill Payment Assistance (rockymountainpower.net). Make sure to select the state in which you live, as programs vary by state.

For customers wanting to provide help, you can donate through Energy Share of Wyoming to help members of your community facing financial difficulties pay their energy bills. Customers can also help a family member or friend by making a payment to directly to their Rocky Mountain Power account. You choose whatever amount you'd like to pay, either with your online account or by mail. The bill payment assistance link has details online.