November 2, 2020
Xcel Energy has filed for an electricity rate increase of $597 million, or 20% over three years, with most of it hitting pocketbooks next year.
But the Minneapolis-based utility — by far the state’s largest electricity provider with 1.3 million customers — also said the increase may not be necessary.
That’s because Xcel on Monday also proposed to extend its existing rate plan for another year — a so-called rate case “stay-out” — as the company’s approximately $2.5 billion COVID-19 investment proposal winds through the Minnesota regulatory process.
“Our preference is to work with parties and the [Minnesota Public Utilities Commission] to achieve a stay-out like we did last year,” said Christopher Clark, Xcel’s president for Minnesota. “We think that would work really well for customers and policymakers.”
If the rate case goes forward, residential customers would see increases of 14% the first year, 1.5% the second and 0.5% the third. Xcel said its current average residential bill in Minnesota is $85.73.
The magnitude of Xcel’s proposed rate increase is “really surprising,” said Annie Levenson-Falk, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota, an advocacy group for residential ratepayers.
Many residential customers are already struggling — and unpaid electric bills are rising — due to economic pressure brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, she said. Meanwhile, “the company is doing just fine.”
Despite headwinds from COVID-19, Xcel’s per-share earnings for the first nine months of 2020 were up 8% over a year ago. Its stock is near an all-time high.
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