As anticipated, Xcel Energy-Colorado has filed a request for a new electric rate increase, which follows a recently approved natural gas rate hike and a $182.2 million jump in revenue for electric service that took effect in April.
The request submitted to regulators Wednesday proposed a $312.2 million revenue increase.
Xcel Energy signaled in October that it planned to propose another electric rate increase. The company said in a filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that it “finds itself needing to seek an increase in base rate revenues in the fourth quarter of 2022.”
Critics of Xcel’s recent rate cases have accused the utility of “a pancaking” of increases. The PUC approved a $64.2 million rise in the utility’s natural gas rates in October. Regulators slashed the utility’s original proposal by $138 million.
The Colorado Office of the Utility Consumer Advocate will intervene in the case, said Cindy Schonhaut, director of the office. One issue the agency will review is that the increase is based on costs forecast for 2023 rather than on historic costs.
Xcel Energy said in a statement that the proposal includes funding for replacing equipment; providing service to new customers; protecting the electric grid and customer information from cyber attacks; and new technology.
“Our customers expect us to deliver affordable, reliable and increasingly clean energy every day,” said Robert Kenney, Xcel Energy-Colorado president. “These investments are important for the safety and security of the grid and will benefit our customers in the long run while ensuring the company and the state stay on track to meet our energy goals.”
If the increase is approved, the typical residential bill would rise by $7.33 a month, or 8.2%, and a typical small business bill would go up by $10.16, or 7.77%.
The current average residential monthly bill is $89.35 and the average bill for small businesses is $130.79.
Schonhaut noted that many of Xcel Energy’s customers buy both electric and gas service from the utility. High wholesale prices for natural gas have pushed up customers’ bills.
The company has 1.5 million electric customers and 1.4 million natural gas customers in Colorado, with substantial overlap between the two.
Energy Outreach Colorado, which helps low-income energy customers, said calls to its state heat helpline were up 26% in October compared to October 2021.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects households using natural gas for heating to see costs jump by 22% this winter. Propane and electricity costs will also rise because of higher fuel costs and colder temperatures, according to the agency.
Xcel Energy customers recently got a small reprieve when the utility filed a fuel price adjustment with the PUC after a drop in the cost of natural gas. The company said natural residential gas bills will be on average $33 lower than anticipated and $140 less for small businesses.
People can contact the state heat helpline, 1-866-HEAT-HELP or 1-866-432-8435, for assistance. Help from the Colorado Low Income Energy Assistance Program — LEAP — is also available.
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