Xcel Energy customers will have to travel to Menomonie or Madison to tell state regulators how they feel about the utility’s plan to change the way consumers pay for energy.
The Public Service Commission will hold public hearings Sept. 16 and Oct. 29 on a request to increase electric revenues by 3.9 percent and natural gas by 5 percent from about 255,000 customers.
Xcel has proposed to lower the cost of electricity while more than doubling the flat monthly service fee for residential, farm and small commercial accounts.
The utility says the shift more fairly distributes the cost of maintaining the power grid, while critics say it hurts those who can least afford it and discourages conservation and home-based alternative energy.
Under the proposed rate structure, the customer charge would go from $8 to $18 per month, while the average rate would drop by about 0.7 cents per kilowatt hour.
For an average Wisconsin household -- using about 750 kilowatt hours per month -- that works out to an extra $4.68 per month, a 4.6 percent increase. But a customer using only 200 kwh would see her bill increase by $8.58, or 26 percent.
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Xcel rate increase: Four scenarios
|Use||Current bill||New bill||Increase|
|200 kwh/month||$32.72||$41.30||26 percent|
|400 kwh/month||$57.44||$64.48||12 percent|
|750 kwh/month||$100.70||$105.38||4.6 percent|
|1,000 kwh/month||$131.60||$134.50||2.2 percent|
In the past two years, three of the state’s five largest investor-owned utilities have significantly hiked customer charges. Madison Gas & Electric went from $8.70 a month in 2012 to $19 this year. Wisconsin Public Service nearly quadrupled its charge.
Xcel says the additional $27.4 million in electricity revenues would not increase profits but will pay for major investments – including two new wind farms and a portion of CapX2020, the high-voltage transmission line under construction between the Twin Cities, Rochester and Holmen.
Other capital projects include upgrades to the Prairie Island nuclear plant, a substation in Blair, Wis., that serves nearby sand mines and about $2 million to refurbish one of three oil-burning generators at the French Island waste-to-energy plant to meet peak demands.
This is the seventh year running that Xcel has requested to increase electric revenue.
Xcel is also asking for an additional $5.9 million in natural gas revenue, which would pay for upgrading pipes and ongoing environmental cleanup costs at a former gas plant in Ashland, Wis.
If approved, that would translate to an increase of about $3 a month for the average customer, according to Xcel.
Two Sept. 16 hearings -- at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. -- will take place at the Menomonie Public Library. The Oct. 29 hearing will be held at PSC headquarters in Madison.
The three-member PSC is expected to issue a decision on the rate case in December. Any changes would take effect in 2016.
Xcel rate increase
Wisconsin regulators approved a $6 increase to the basic monthly charge applied to residential customers in Wisconsin. Xcel will reduce the price of electricity by an average of 0.7 cents per kilowatt hour. That translates to a bigger increase for customers who use less energy.
|Use||Current bill||New bill||Change|
|200 kwh/month||$32.10||$36.72||14 percent|
|750 kwh/month||$98.38||$99.20||0.8 percent|
|1,000 kwh/month||$128.50||$127.60||-0.9 percent|