Last year Rocky Mountain Power officials told customers to expect yearly rate increases and they weren't kidding. A recent rate hike request before the Wyoming Public Service Commission would mean about a 9 percent  increase or about $6  for the average residential user. Commercial rates vary.

Company spokesman, Jeff Hymas says the need for continued rate hikes is driven by production costs for the utility along with growing demand.

"This particular price increase request, a large part of that is related to our coal costs. We are having to replace long term coal contracts, that have been very beneficial, at today's much higher prices. In addition to that we're investing a lot of money into air quality improvements in our coal fueled plants because of environmental regulations."

Last year's round of increases and accompanying public hearings included a lot of questions regarding reliability in the Casper area. Utility officials at that time said improvements were ongoing and actually may have aggravated reliability.

Hymas says that work continues. "We've allocated an additional 7.1 million dollars in Wyoming to address our reliability and a lot of that is in the Casper area. That spending is over and above our regular maintenance budget each year."

He sites new local substations and other transmission improvements that should be making a difference for customers.

Hymas says they continue to urge users to practice energy efficiency, which he says can keep kilowatt hours down and prevent customers from slipping into higher use charges.

The proposed increase if approved would go into effect next Fall.