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Black Hills files for 3.7 percent rate hike

Black Hills Energy is asking the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for a 3.7 percent rate increase for its electric customers, a hike the utility wants to recover $70 million it spent on a new wind farm near Walsenburg and other expenses.

Black Hills filed the request Wednesday afternoon in Denver. The commission has 210 days to make a decision.

Christopher Burke, vice president of Black Hills’ Colorado operations, said the rate increase would bring in another $8 million a year, starting next January.

Black Hills said for an average residential customer, the hike would mean an extra $4.69 a month. For small commercial customers, the increase would mean an extra $17.20 a month.

Burke said the new wind farm is helping Black Hills meet a state requirement that 30 percent of its electricity come from renewable energy sources.

The 3.7 percent rate request does not include the utility’s PUC-approved plan to add a 40-megawatt, $70 million turbine to its new Pueblo power station.

That turbine is expected to come online in 2017. The PUC approved that additional turbine as replacement power because Black Hills shut down its coal-burning plant in Canon City.

Since becoming the PUC-approved electric company for Pueblo in 2010, Black Hills has built a $500 million power plant complex north of the Pueblo Memorial Airport.

The utility has been awarded rate increases of 12.6 percent (2010) and 4.9 percent (in 2012) from the PUC.