Xcel Energy has been granted a rate hike that will have the average customer paying $9 more per-month starting in January. The State Public Utilities Commission approved the interim rate hike Thursday. The overall increase is $250-million, or about 9%. The higher rate stays in effect while the PUC considers another increase of nearly 11% in 2013. Xcel serves a total of 1.2-million customers in Minnesota. The company says the increase is necessary to recover investments in its two nuclear plants, and 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 Xcel customers in the past seven years.