Colorado's energy regulators are soliciting the public's comments over Xcel Energy's proposal to hike customers' natural gas bills by $296 million over three years to pay for, among other things, programs to “strengthen the system” and fix distribution leaks.
Xcel is asking for the rate hike atop other recent gas and electric rate increases, including at least $2 billion to build up to 650 miles of new high-voltage power lines to serve remote windmills and solar farms, and $500 million in excess natural gas and electricity costs for the February 2021 winter storm Uri.
Colorado's largest utility is also seeking the rate hike amidst skyrocketing inflation and soaring prices of commodities, notably fuel.
The Public Utilities Commission, which regulates energy companies, is holding a public comment session on Aug. 18 from 4-6 p.m. The hearing will be held virtually and the public is invited to provide comment via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 856 4455 6311
In addition, the PUC will hold an evidentiary hearing from August 17-31. The public is also invited to view the hearing at Hearing Room A. Specific hours for each day's hearing can be found at the commission's calendar at https://puc.colorado.gov/puccalendar.
Details of the rate case can also be found in the commission’s e-Filings system for Proceeding No. 22AL-0046G.
“The Company is filing this rate case because Public Service continues to make fundamental infrastructure investments to serve customers, consistent with its obligation to provide safe, reliable service while working to advance our vision for the future of the gas system,” Xcel's legal notice filed with the PUC said.
Under the proposal, $4.16 would be added to residential customer’s gas bill starting in November. Bills would go up another $1.83 in 2023 and then another $2.15 in 2024 for a cumulative increase of $8.13, or 13%, over three years.
If approved by the PUC, this rate increase would set the new gas base rate through the end of October 2025.
"These pancaking rate increases could not be more poorly timed,” said Jake Fogleman, energy policy analyst at the Independence Institute, a Denver think-tank. “The PUC has already allowed Xcel to get away with a half-billion in new ratepayer money this year even though it was determined the company was negligent during Winter Storm Uri. Now, Xcel's back for more as Coloradans are still reeling from inflation. This will keep happening until the PUC says enough is enough."