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State commission approves Black Hills Energy refunds

PIERRE — South Dakota electricity customers should get refunds from Black Hills Energy, the state Public Utilities Commission decided Tuesday.

The refund total for 2018 is $7.67 million. It results from federal tax cuts Congress approved in 2017. The corporate rate dropped to 21 percent from 35 percent.

The Rapid City-based company plans to distribute refunds at one time to customers no later than October.

The amounts will be calculated on each customer's most-recent 12 months of sales, probably from August 2017 through July 2018.

The company earlier planned to apply refunds on October usage.

"I think that's a good move," Commissioner Chris Nelson said about the change.

Refunds are limited to customers active as of July 31.

The company and commission staff agreed that future refunds totaling $8.97 million should be reflected in cost reductions that take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

The company also plans to increase monthly charges to residential customers to $12 from the current $9.25. The higher monthly fee fixes a subsidy that was in place.

"Each customer is paying their fair share of the costs they are incurring," said Brittany Mehlhaff, a commission analyst.

Commission Chairwoman Kristie Fiegen said, "This is kind of a mini-rate case."

Charles Gray, a company official, said the average refund for about 45,000 residential customers would be about $50 in October.

The company plans to send a bill notice in October to each customer.

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