Xcel seeks to raise electricity rates in the fall

CPUC wants to hear from the public

ALAMOSA — Several months after Xcel Energy customers received high utility bills that the company attributed to the high cost of natural gas, Xcel Energy is now asking the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for approval to raise its rates for electricity.

But before deciding, the CPUC wants to hear from the public about what paying more for electricity means to them.

According to information received from the CPUC, the estimated increase in electrical bills would be 8.2% per month for residential customers and 7.8% for small commercial customers.

Under the proposal, a typical residential bill would increase by approximately 8.20%, or $7.33 more per month or an extra $87.96 per year compared to bills today. Typical small-commercial customers can expect a 7.77% increase, resulting in a $10.16 monthly bill or $121.92 per year impact. If approved, these electric rate changes would go into effect in fall 2023.

Overall, the rate increase would generate about $310 million in revenue for the company. Last year, Xcel crafted its proposal for an increase in electricity while customers received some of the highest natural gas utility bills in memory, the company reported record-breaking profits for its shareholders.

In an email exchange with the Valley Courier in December of 2022, Tyler Bryant, Xcel Energy media representative, discussed the request for the electricity rate increase that’s currently being considered. Bryant wrote the rate increase “…supports proactive investments to provide an increasingly clean energy mix and maintain and strengthen our infrastructure across the state. The result is a power grid that is better protected from increasing risks, including cyberattacks, wildfires, and extreme weather. These investments also establish a technology platform for enhanced customer experiences, new products and programs, and a more reliable, resilient system to serve customers.”

During public testimony in front of the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates — a six-person committee formed in February 2023 by state lawmakers to investigate high utility bills in Colorado — representatives from Xcel explained its current justification for asking for a rate increase related to funding infrastructure projects.

Representative Matthew Martinez (D-62), who was appointed as one of the six to sit on the Joint Select Committee, explained Xcel's practice. As he described it, when deciding to make investments in their infrastructure, the company has to take out loans to pay for the infrastructure projects. By increasing how much money ratepayers, in other words, their customers pay each month, the company recoups the money to pay back the loans.

Based on Bryant’s explanation of the rate increase proposal that would pay for “strengthened infrastructure” — dubbed as Proceeding no. 22-0530E — it would appear that the same justification might apply.

Bryant’s statement to the Valley Courier was made before the Joint Select Committee on Rising Utility Rates was involved in drafting, introducing, and passing SB23-291 “Utility Regulation” which concerns the public utilities commission's regulation of energy utilities.

While SB23-291 largely relates to carbon-based fuel, it includes provisions that require the CPUC to consider how any rate increase to pay for infrastructure impacts the public and how the company justifies ratepayers funding improvements to the company’s operations as that company is making record-breaking profits.

Rep. Martinez was largely responsible for getting SB23-291 passed in the House. When asked to comment on Xcel Energy’s request to raise the base rate for electricity, Martinez said, “SB291 will give more teeth to the CPUC in their ruling. It should also give them a different lens to look through when considering Xcel’s request.”

As was also revealed during public testimony, every rate request made by Xcel has been approved by the CPUC in the past, some with modifications and some at full scale.

The “Utility Regulation” legislation will perhaps serve as a testing ground to see, now that they’ve been granted the authority, just how much “teeth” the CPUC is willing to show in dealing with one of the state’s largest utility companies.

Colorado is only the second state in the nation to pass such a bill.

For people interested in making a comment, emailed comments can be sent to  [email protected]. Written comments should be mailed to Colorado Public Utilities Commission,1560 Broadway, Suite 250, Denver, CO 80202. Oral comments can be made by calling 303-869-3490.

Two remote public comment hearings are scheduled — one for Wednesday, May 31, from 4-6 p.m. and the second for Tuesday, July 11, from 4-6 p.m. Call or email at the contacts listed above for a link to the zoom meetings.

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