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Wisconsin electric rate history

For the 12th straight year, Xcel Energy is asking Wisconsin regulators to increase the utility’s electricity revenue.

The utility is expected to file an application today asking the Public Service Commission to approve a 2.4 percent overall increase in electricity revenue and a 3.9 percent bump in natural gas income in 2017.

Xcel calculates the combined increases would cost the average household an additional $4.22 per month. Commercial and industrial users would see a larger proportional increase.

The Minnesota-based utility serves about 247,000 electric and about 107,000 natural gas customers in Wisconsin.

The electric case filing comes just four months after Xcel imposed a 75 percent increase to the flat monthly fee charged to all residential and farm customers. While Xcel lowered the price per kilowatt-hour, that change resulted in higher bills for average and lower-use customers.

The proposal would set the average retail electric rate to 11.7 cents per kilowatt hour, still slightly lower than it was in 2014. But with the larger flat fee, customers could expect to see their bills increase by a dollar or two if the proposal is accepted.

Because they operate as virtual monopolies, investor-owned utilities are regulated by the PSC, whose three commissioners are appointed by the governor. The PSC sets rates that allow a “reasonable” return on investment — in Xcel’s case 7.81 percent in 2016.

Xcel argues it needs an additional $17.4 million next year to cover new investments, primarily in transmission, support and technology. A $294 million wind farm in North Dakota, a $46 million rebuild of a transmission line in northern Wisconsin and $12.3 million update to the Prairie Island nuclear plant are among the largest projects. Xcel also plans to replace two service centers and to update its back-end software.

Kurt Runzler is acting executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, a nonprofit organization that advocates for Wisconsin utility customers. He said while the group would prefer not to see an increase, Xcel is working with interested parties to limit the amount, which he hopes will be reduced through the review process. 

“Nobody likes an increase,” said Todd Stuart, executive director of the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, a trade organization of some of the state’s largest power users, who would see rates go up 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent, according to Xcel estimates.

Stuart praised Xcel for limiting the scope of this increase but said his organization would try to negotiate a smaller increase.

That’s a likely outcome.

Since 2006, Xcel has requested an average of $35.8 million each year in electricity revenues, according to a Tribune analysis of PSC records. On average, the PSC has granted them a little more than half what they requested.

Adjusted for inflation, the average customer bill in 2016 is more than 27 percent higher than it was 15 years earlier.

The average residential bill — based on usage of 750 kilowatt-hours — last year was $99.15, third lowest among the state’s five major utilities. Alliant customers paid about $93.68, while those with Madison Gas & Electric paid $118.72.

No additional fixed charges

Following most of Wisconsin’s other investor-owned utilities, Xcel last year sought to increase the monthly fee from $8 to $18, arguing that those who use the least energy weren’t paying their fair share to maintain the poles and wires needed to deliver electricity to homes and businesses.

The proposal drew opposition from consumer and clean energy advocates who said it affected those who can least afford it and discourages conservation and innovations like rooftop solar.

The PSC, which in the past two years has approved flat fee increases for four of the state’s five largest investor-owned utilities, ultimately set the fee at $14.

Clean energy investments

While investments in power plants is not the primary driver for this year’s rate case, Xcel has been aggressive in its development of renewable energy, with plans to add nearly 300 megawatts of solar generation capacity this year, as well as two community projects that will allow Wisconsin customers to purchase their own solar panels.

Including nuclear energy — which accounts for 27 percent of its power output — Xcel now gets half its electricity from carbon-free sources and only 35 percent from coal. Statewide, Wisconsin utilities get about 65 percent of their energy from coal.

Xcel plans to increase its carbon-free share to 63 percent by 2030 as wind and solar displace coal.

That’s a response to signals from both regulators and consumers, said Don Reck, Xcel’s regional vice president of rates and regulatory affairs.

“Customers are asking for cleaner sources of energy,” he said.

Reck said portfolio diversification also provides a hedge against rising fuel prices and regulations that could limit fossil fuel emissions.

RENEW Wisconsin, a clean energy group that opposed last year’s fixed-charge increase, will not oppose the rate increase.

Executive director Tyler Huebner praised Xcel for not attempting to further raise the flat fee and noted that two of the cost drivers are investments in wind and solar energy.

“In general Xcel is moving to increase renewables,” Huebner said. “They’re amongst the utility leaders.”

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{tableAssetData}{table_headers}rate year requested approved{/table_headers}

{table_rows}{row}2006 10.3% 10.6%{/row}

{row}2007 5.0% 3.0%{/row}

{row}2008 14.3% 8.1%{/row}

{row}2009 8.6% 0.0%{/row}

{row}2010 5.7% 1.2%{/row}

{row}2011 5.4% 3.9%{/row}

{row}2012 5.1% 2.1%{/row}

{row}2013 6.7% 6.1%{/row}

{row}2014 6.5% 3.1%{/row}

{row}2015 3.2% 2.2%{/row}

{row}2016 3.9% 1.1%{/row}

{row}2017 2.4% {/row}{/table_rows}

{/tableAssetData}{child_tableCredit}{/child_tableCredit}

{child_uuid}4bdd3932-f787-11e5-b0ae-00163ec2aa77{/child_uuid}{/child_tableAsset}{/childtable}

0
0
0
0
0

Xcel electric rate requests

rate year requested approved
2006 10.3% 10.6%
2007 5.0% 3.0%
2008 14.3% 8.1%
2009 8.6% 0.0%
2010 5.7% 1.2%
2011 5.4% 3.9%
2012 5.1% 2.1%
2013 6.7% 6.1%
2014 6.5% 3.1%
2015 3.2% 2.2%
2016 3.9% 1.1%
2017 2.4%

Reporter

Rhymes with Lubbock. La Crosse Tribune reporter and data geek. Covers energy, transportation and the environment, among other things. Call him at 608-791-8217.

(13) comments

Ceniceros62

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marlin35

It seems to me when they used to teach civics in school that when you are an investor in a company you assumed some risk in that Investment. To just receive a 7.81% return and have no risk sounds like a pretty good deal, I don't ever remember getting that kind of return on my bank account or even a yearly raise in that amount. So if excel wants to make all these improvements and additional power lines then their investors should be paying for them {that is called risk}. I
am tired of the extortion we as consumers must pay including being forced to pay for low income energy users so that I have to lower my thermostat and they can run it as high as they want. I'm not denying them heat, if Excel and their shareholders think it's a good idea, let them donate to the poor.

reader0520

Can't stand that company. Greedy jerks.

capedcrusader

Take their name off that sports arena up in St Paul and perhaps they wouldn't need a raise.

Asiseeit

ya think these regulators might have some stock in excel ? appointed by the govenor, the republican way. bet ya it gets approval.

Melowese Richardson

You do realize that Governor Dayton is a Dem, don't you??

lookout

For the 12th straight year, Xcel Energy is asking Wisconsin regulators to increase the utility’s electricity revenue. And for the 12th straight year wages have been stagnant.

BudandDot

I dont know why they even ask. They allow the increase every year. Just to make it appear that we actually have a chance?

Union Man

Go out and breath some fresh air...there's your benefits!

CJ

So the new eyesore of a PowerLine being built to better sustain energy needs elsewhere and keep prices down isn't helping those locally to keep prices down then........who woulda thunk that??? Well, aside from the 3 person PSC that did not listen anyhow but hey.......

restofstory

When will we see lower energy costs? I thought with all of the beautiful windmills and high wire lines we would see some benefits.

Tim Russell

Who ever told you that?

Asiseeit

just say no!

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