MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Xcel Energy has been granted a rate hike that will have the average customer paying $9 more per month starting in January.

The Public Utilities Commission approved the interim rate hike on Thursday. The higher rate stays in effect while the PUC considers another increase of nearly 11 percent in 2013.

Minneapolis-based Xcel serves 1.2 million customers in Minnesota.

Xcel says the increase is necessary to recover investments in its two nuclear plants. The company also cited a drop in electric sales and the need to pay for other power plant and transmission upgrades.

It's the fifth electric rate hike for Minnesota customers of Xcel in seven years. Before that, Minnesota customers went 13 years without an electric rate increase.

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