ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved a plan that should help ease energy costs for consumers after last winter's polar vortex weather event drove natural gas and utility prices through the roof.

According to a Thursday, Aug. 5, news release, the commission approved a plan to "spread cost recovery incrementally over a period of time" as commissioners look into the "reasonableness" of the price hikes. The plan also exempts low-income residential customers who receive energy assistance funds or who are behind on their utility bills.

Commission Chair Katie Sieben on Thursday said that without the newly approved plan, "customers would have paid hundreds of millions in additional costs over the next year."

"Considering the ongoing pandemic, this decision is deeply consequential for ratepayers," she said. "Further examination of the costs incurred during the polar vortex is necessary to ensure utilities acted in a reasonable manner."

Typically, utility companies recover excess fuel costs from the previous year by adjusting consumers' rates every September. Because of last winter's extraordinary weather event and price increase for natural gas, the commission is trying to make sure Minnesotans aren't faced with massive energy bills this fall.