Panel reschedules Xcel rate hike hearings

Back in September, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission held a hearing in Grand Junction on a proposed Xcel Energy rate increase that no one attended.

That’s because the PUC didn’t tell anyone they were coming.

As a result, the PUC has scheduled three new public hearings on the proposed rate increase, including one in Grand Junction on Nov. 2.

The hearings are part of Xcel’s request to increase customer rates so it can raise $139 million over three years to beef up its natural gas distribution system. If approved, the hike would go into effect in February.

When Xcel announced plans back in June to ask for the increase to pay for infrastructure needs, which is allowed by law, it said the additional money is needed to help offset about $300 million it has spent since the last base rate increase was approved in 2015.

Those improvements included removing old cast iron pipes and more than 350 miles worth of vintage plastic and steel pipes that were part of its natural gas system.

In September, the utility also announced that it planned to ask the PUC to approve a plan that would allow it to move further away from the use of coal, relying on clean energy and natural gas instead.

That plan calls for eliminating some coal-fired power plants on the Front Range, and reducing to 25 percent how much power it generates from coal.

To do that, it hopes to invest in renewable energy projects through the expiring federal Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit.

At the same time, the company says it needs to upgrade its natural gas system, including system improvements for numerous mountain communities and new compressor stations in Gunnison and Craig.

The Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, which monitors and comments on such rate increases, has said that it doesn’t much care for the three-year plan because it is based on projected natural gas prices rather than actual costs.

Under Xcel’s plan, residential customers using 64 therms of natural gas a month would see monthly rates increase by about $2.73 in 2018, $2.19 in 2019 and $1.74 in 2020.

Business customers, meanwhile, would see monthly increases of about $10.91 in 2018, $6.97 in 2019 and $6.95 in 2020. That’s based on a small commercial customer that uses about 291 therms a month.

The PUC will hold the first public hearing Tuesday in Denver, Oct. 23 in Pueblo and Nov. 2 at the Mesa County Central Library, 443 N. Sixth St., in Grand Junction.

Consumers also can file comments via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or through the mail to the PUC, 1560 Broadway, Suite 250, Denver 80202.


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