Price increase for some power customers due to Big Stone coal plant being “off line”

March 2, 2023

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota customers of Otter Tail Power Company will see an extra charge on their bills for four months, beginning this month.

It’s to make up for power purchases from the open market.

“Due to the Big Stone coal plant (in South Dakota) being off-line from Nov. 5, 2022 to Feb. 8, 2023, it forced Otter tail to purchase high-priced energy from the market,” said Commissioner Sheri Haugen-Hoffart.

Otter Tail’s bill for that purchased power is $14 million. Haugen-Hoffart said if it was billed to customers in one month, the cost would be $12.62 for a customer using 1000 kilowatts. But she said Otter Tail has asked for a waiver, so customers would pay it over four months.

“If the waiver is granted, the same 1000 kilowatt customer would see an increase of approximately $5.43 per month,” Haugen-Hoffart said.

PSC Chairman Randy Christmann said he was “very frustrated” by this.

“They pop it on us,” Christmann said. “There’s no time for staff to go back and review, to see whether in fact these were the best alternatives to replace that generation.”

Still, Christmann said he was supporting the plan. “I’ll do that for the good of the customers,” Christmann said.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak agreed.

“I think it’s really important that the companies know we’re going to look into that,” Fedorchak said. “We need to make sure they are indeed seeking the lowest cost option, in times like this.”