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Billings residents adjust for higher energy bills after PSC approval

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Posted at 10:49 PM, Oct 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-27 11:16:11-04

BILLINGS - Some in Billings talked about what they do when they look at their energy bills and how they try to stay warm in the winter, a day after the Montana Public Service Commission approved a rate increase on Wednesday.

Barbers at Rebels & Razors pay a set booth rental that includes utilities, so they will not immediately see the electricity rate increase.

"Don't really affect me and I haven't seen any effects of that," said Cedric Neal, a barber at Rebels & Razors. "And so utilities paid, I'm kind of out it when it comes to an increase, unless my landlord tells me different."

"The owners take care of our building's electricity here," said Dustin Kelm, also a barber at Rebels & Razors. "And I have it built into my rent at the place that I live, so I don't see it per se."

By law, the Public Service Commission is required to approve what is just unreasonable, according to commissioners.

Commissioner Tony O'Donnell, R-Billings, tells Q2 the commission approved a stipulation by Northwestern, the Montana Consumer Council and several large businesses, for the rate increase application.

According to an MTN report, Northwestern's electric revenue will increase just under 15% compared to August of 2022, and natural gas will increase almost 12%.

For the average home that would mean almost an 8% increase in the electricity bill.

If they were directly affected, those barbers say they would keep their homes cooler.

"I would definitely drop to 68 in the wintertime," said Kelm. " I would be that penny-pinching guy."

Others also lower the temperatures and have already found ways to save on the heating bill.

"A little cooler," Billings resident Eric Gulo said about the temperature in his home. "Heavier clothes so I wear heavier sweatpants, heavier sweatshirts. I layer up underneath the sweatshirts and sweatpants. And wear heavier socks of course."

And for some thermostats can be set as low as 54 degrees and the house can still stay warm.

"We have woodstoves," said Shauntesia Birdinground, who lives in Pryor. "Woodstoves actually help out a lot, too. Just so that we're not paying as much money for our bills as we would normally."

So they'll live with paying more for energy and add it to the other increased expenses.

"Most of the residents here are already getting a little crunch from everything else being so high with food, groceries and things like that." Neal said. "Every penny is going to count. So any increase anywhere could actually hurt everyone's bottom line."