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Letter: Speak up at Xcel rate case hearing

To the Editor:

No one is excited about shelling out more money to Xcel, but the utility has requested an increase in rates, and it’s up to us to speak up. Xcel wants more money to cover the cost of transmission its been building and for upgrades to power plants. But there’s more to this story.

As Xcel’s Ben Fowkes notes, the industry has a “new normal.” Wholesale cost of electricity is down and holding. Fuel prices, the main variable cost, are low, whether coal or gas. Cost of energy via power purchase agreements is low. Cost of financing construction is also low. Xcel’s peak demand is down, 8,621 MW for 2015, from the 2006 all-time peak of 9,859. Xcel’s 2016 1Q energy sales are down 1.9 percent despite a 0.9 percent increase in customer growth.

We’re conserving – why should we pay more? Why are residential rates higher than large energy users?

Xcel’s rate case is transmission driven. Four CapX 2020 transmission lines in Minnesota cost $2+ billion. The MISO MVP 17 project portfolio of transmission across the Midwest will cost $5.24 billion-plus, of which we pay a share. This transmission moves electricity through Minnesota to points east, for the private purpose of market sales of electricity, from any point A to any point B in the eastern Interconnect.

And that’s the rub. Transmission is not necessary to serve Xcel’s load in Minnesota — it’s transmission for market access — and we should not bear those costs.

Xcel worked hard to reach consensus with the usual rate case intervenors on its e21 Initiative, including a “Multi Year Rate Plan” based on its corporate business case rather than cost-based rates. Xcel worked hard to ram through e21’s legislation, with those usual suspects sitting quietly in committee as Senate and House toadies greased the skids. What’s in it for those who agreed? What about ratepayers?

Who is speaking for the ratepayers? The judge has rejected intervenors — some who would object to Xcel’s plans are shut out. AARP and the state’s Office of Attorney General-RUD are making a valiant effort, but your voice is needed. If you’re an Xcel ratepayer and are dubious of Xcel’s business plan, if you want Xcel to justify costs, if you want consideration of what costs are recoverable, if you want limitations on recovery for travel, lobbying expenses, or prohibition of market-based infrastructure and activities to sell electricity beyond Xcel’s service territory, here’s your chance.

I pushed for a hearing in Red Wing at the prehearing conference, and it’s next Wednesday: Xcel Rate Case Public Hearing, 7 p.m., Minnesota State College Southeast.

Carol A. Overland

Red Wing

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