Xcel Energy-Colorado is seeking natural gas rate increases that would add $6.44 a month to a typical residential bill and $19.51 a month to a typical small-business customer’s bill.
The proposed rate, which would be roughly a 16% increase for residential customers, follows years of significant investments to improve reliability, reduce emissions on the system and keep pace with growth, the utility said in its filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.
The utility’s current base rates are premised on the cost of service in 2016, according to the filing.
Alice Jackson, Xcel Energy-Colorado president, said in a statement that the utility has made the investments while keeping customers’ costs low. If the increase is approved, residential gas bills would remain more than 20% below the national average, according to Xcel, the state’s largest electric utility.
Cindy Schonhaut, director of the state Office of Consumer Counsel, said her office, which represents the public in utility cases, will participate in the proceedings on the requested rate increase.
“We’ll look closely at the rate increases,” Schonhaut said Tuesday
In mid-February the PUC issued a written decision approving a $41.5 million annual electric rate increase for Xcel Energy. The utility had requested a $158 million increase.
During hearings in December, members of the public said Xcel Energy’s rate request was too high, considering that the company made $550 million after taxes in 2018 in Colorado. Two of the three commissioners pointed to the company’s finances when they approved a 9.3% rate of return the utility is allowed on its investments rather than the 10.2% rate it had sought.
The PUC rejected Xcel Energy’s request to have customers pay $11.7 million for repairs to its Comanche 3 coal-fired unit in Pueblo. Xcel replaced equipment after leaks and other problems caused several outages.
The PUC sided with opponents of charging customers for the repairs and replacement who argued that Xcel Energy should have been aware of problems before the generating unit was built. The Office of Consumer Counsel said the utility went with an unproven design and that ratepayers shouldn’t have to pay for the mistake.
“We are disappointed that the commission did not allow these costs and will continue to review the written decision to determine our next step,” Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo wrote in an email.
She added that the repairs to Comanche 3 were economical and below the construction cost cap previously established by the PUC.
Xcel Energy, based in Minneapolis, has about 1.4 million customers in Colorado.
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