By - Jim Vess

Xcel Energy requests $22.2 million for Wisconsin rate increases

Energize Weekly, April 6, 2016

Xcel Energy has asked the Wisconsin Public Service Commission to approve $22.2 million in natural gas and electric rate increases, the 12th straight year Xcel has requested to increase electricity revenue in the Badger State.

The utility says it needs an additional $17.4 million for infrastructure investments, including a $294 million wind farm in North Dakota, a $46 million transmission line upgrade in Northern Wisconsin, and to upgrade equipment at the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant.  The company is also requesting $4.8 million in natural gas rate increases to cover the costs of ongoing environmental remediation at the Ashland Lakefront Superfund Site.

The extra funds would also be used to replace aging infrastructure as well as add 200 megawatts (MW) of carbon-free wind energy at the Courtenay Wind Farm in Stutsman County, North Dakota.

The rate increases amount to an overall 2.4 percent average increase over last year.  Xcel said that the average customer using 750 kilowatt-hours a month would see a $1.73 a month increase on their electricity bill, or 1.7 percent.  Combined, the natural gas and electric rate increases would amount to $4.22 per customer.  If approved, the increases would take effect January 1, 2017.

The request comes after an attempt to increase fixed charges on Wisconsin customers across the board by 75 percent in order to make up for diminished revenues.  Xcel has said that an increase in distributed generation and energy efficiency has resulted in decreased electricity sales, justifying the rate increases.

“We are committed to managing our costs and balancing the need for investments in clean, reliable energy with the need for affordable rates,” said Xcel’s Regional Vice President for Rates and Regulatory Affairs Don Reck. “To accomplish this, we are limiting the requested increase to capital investments and upgrades to facilities necessary to serve our customers. We are not requesting any change related to increased operating expenses.”

Although the state ratepayer advocate, the Citizen’s Utility Board, has opposed Xcel’s rate increase proposals in the past, they say they will not oppose this year’s increase because it will include investments in wind and solar energy.  The utility is the nation’s leader in carbon-free energy, with plans to receive 63 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2030.

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