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AARP AARP States North Dakota Advocacy

Fighting to Save You Money on Your Utility Bills

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AARP is fighting to save you money on your utility bills. Natural gas and electric rates are an essential pocketbook issue for North Dakota residents 50-plus and their families, many of whom struggle to pay their utility bills along with other household expenses like food and medicine. Utility rates are soaring because of the quadrupling of natural gas commodity costs. At this time, AARP North Dakota is the only organization in North Dakota at the table when utility companies look to unfairly burden residential customer with electric rate hikes.

Montana Dakota Utilities Natural Gas rate increase (May 2024)
Montana Dakota Utilities (MDU) proposed increase residential natural gas rates by $35.3 million in 2024. The rate increase request made to the North Dakota Public Service Commission would mean that residential customers will see a 9.84 percent increase in their monthly bill. AARP North Dakota opposes this proposed rate increase on behalf of its 83,000 members and North Dakota residents, aged 50-plus, and intervened with the Public Service Commission in May of 2024.

In its rate increase filing for natural gas customers in North Dakota, MDU proposes to increase residential rates 9.84% while the overall average increase is just 7.45%. In addition, MDU is proposing another increase to the basic service charge – the fixed charge residential customers pay before turning on the gas – despite already having one of the highest fixed charges in the area. MDU also proposes the addition of a residential distribution delivery charge.

Montana Dakota Utilities (2022-23)
In 2022, Montana Dakota Utilities (MDU) went to the ND Public Service Commission (PSC) looking to raise residential customers' electric bills by as much as 17 % – using the fixed charge to give its residential customers less control over their electricity bills.

We formally intervened in the case and pursued a settlement in partnership with MDU, Walmart Inc., and Marathon Petroleum Company. On June 6, 2023, the settlement was approved, and the PSC allowed a 7.4 % electricity rate increase for MDU – significantly lowering the monthly hit on residential customers’ pocketbooks.

Importantly, the rate increase allowed customers more control over the increase. By reducing their electricity use, they are able to mitigate even more of the rate increase.

Xcel Natural Gas Rate Hike (2021-22)
In 2021, Xcel Energy proposed a natural gas rate increase of $7.059 million which would have raised the rates for approximately 60,000 North Dakota residential customers by nearly 11 %. Other customer classes – like business and industry – would have seen smaller increases.

AARP ND fought back against the request, and with the help of AARP members who raised their voices, made significant progress advocating for fair rates for consumers across the state. When the dust settled, the rate hike was reduced to 8.75% for residential customers, and Xcel lowered the fixed charge increase they had proposed from $24 or more down to $22.25 per customer.

This is a real pocketbook issue for older North Dakotans who often are on fixed incomes. That’s why we work to mitigate the impact when rate hikes are proposed. Every time we come to the table our goal is to ensure that residential customers have control over their monthly energy costs and their budget bottom line.
Janelle Moos, Advocacy Director, AARP ND  

MDU Natural Gas Rates (2020-21)
During the pandemic in 2020, MDU looked to increase the natural gas rates for households by 13% – a rate much higher than the rates proposed for other customer classes. The company also wanted to increase the fixed customer charge another $6 a month, bringing that charge to $27 per month at a time when MDU had some of the highest customer charges in the country.

The proposal would have increased the fixed charge for residential households to $25.91 per month. With the support of residential customers who took action, AARP ND was successful in making the case that MDU’s proposal was out of line. We saved residential consumers $1.6 million and reduced the rate increase of the fixed charge.

Providing resources to keep costs down

In order to help older North Dakotans deal with the fluctuation in natural gas prices that often comes during the winter heating season, AARP and MDU created a home heating series addressing balanced billing, home weatherization tips, and how to access Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

To learn more about LIHEAP go to hhs.nd.gov/applyforhelp/liheap.

About AARP North Dakota
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