Xcel Energy has asked the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for another $180 million rate hike on top of the $112 million increase Xcel received in July.
According to the Denver Post, most of this purposed rate increase is intended to go toward the cost for building the state-of-the-art new Comanche 3, a coal-fired power plant near Pueblo. This comes after part of the last rate increase in July also went to fund the billion-dollar plant.
While some of the rate increase would go to pay for useful projects, such as the energy-saving SmartGridCity initiative in Boulder, even in that case, questions remain. The Post reported that Boulder has charged that Xcel has improperly managed the project’s finances.
Local residents will be stuck footing a significant chunk of the bill from this rate increase. Xcel has a near monopoly in Fort Collins, being the dominant provider of electricity and the sole provider of natural gas for Fort Collins’ residences.
While the increase is only going to cost the average Xcel utility customer an extra $5 per month, it is still a step in the wrong direction.
Xcel shouldn’t be able to force through rate increases simply because it has an effective monopoly. Whether the solution is to create more competition or to provide more government oversight, it is clear that the rate-raising status quo needs to be re-examined.
Until the company can adequately demonstrate a real need for the increase and explain to Northern Colorado customers why the rate change is beneficial for them, customers need to demand the proposal go no further.