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Xcel customers could see another increase in monthly bills as state aims to reach clean energy goals

Utility looks to expand electric vehicle charging network
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Posted at 5:30 PM, May 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-31 09:01:35-04

DENVER — Xcel Energy customers could see another increase in their monthly bills as the utility looks to build a high-speed public charging network for electric vehicles to meet the state's clean energy goals by the end of the decade.

In its plan to transition to clean energy, Colorado adopted a goal to have 940,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. To meet that goal, the state passed a law in 2019 that requires utilities like Xcel to develop transportation electrification plans to help with the transition.

In its newest transportation electrification proposal, Xcel is asking the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for permission to bill customers to build the charging network.

“We're really focused on areas that have not seen a lot of infrastructure buildout,” said Nadia El Mallakh, vice president of Clean Transportation for Xcel Energy. “We know a big [customer] barrier for driving electric is that they say we need more high-speed public charging.”

El Mallakh said the proposed monthly bill increase would add 460 public charging stations in Xcel’s service area.

“That’s about 10% of what the state of Colorado will need in our service area by 2030,” said El Mallakh.

The public charging network, which would cost about $140 million, is one part of a more comprehensive plan Xcel is proposing.

Xcel officials said their proposal “includes expanded solutions and programs to support public charging and charging at homes, businesses, multifamily buildings, and other community locations.”

El Mallakh pointed out that costs for the public charging component of the plan would not be passed on to residential customers. Instead, these costs would go to business customers, she said.

Residential customers, however, would still see their bills increase to pay for other components of the plan.

The average residential customer’s electric bill would increase by 77 cents per month, according to a news release from Xcel.

“It's a really tough time right now, and we know the financial challenges with inflation and everything else going on,” said El Mallakh. “We were very mindful of that. And what I would say is, we kept that in mind. And we really designed this plan that it's going to pay for itself over time.”

Xcel customers like Ian Peek don’t want to see any increase in their bills and said it’s not fair to make all customers pay for something they won’t use.

“Not everyone uses electric vehicles, but they want to pass that cost on to all of their consumers, that doesn't really seem to make a lot of sense to me,” said Peek. “It feels like they're just asking for more money when they already are making profits.”

Xcel wants to raise rates to pay for electric vehicle charging network

Xcel’s request comes at a time when the PUC is considering a request from Xcel to increase its base rates, which would add $7.33 to the average customer’s monthly bill.

Xcel officials said those increases are needed as the utility transitions to renewable energy.

In a public filing, Xcel officials said the request was “driven by investments in the distribution and transmission systems, and in information technology, which are in turn driven by the necessary replacement of aging equipment, the need to support the safety and reliability of the system, population growth, new service requests, and capacity upgrades due to increasing demand.”

Bill Levis with AARP Colorado said those who live on fixed incomes would be hit hardest.

“Our concern at AARP Colorado is we have a lot of our members who are on fixed incomes, and up to 30% of their net income goes to utilities right now,” said Levis.

That’s why he’s urging customers to speak out at a public meeting the Public Utilities Commission is holding on Wednesday on the base rate increase. You can find the details of the event here.

“This would just be piling on another increase on top of the other increases that have already been approved by the PUC,” said Levis. “I think it's very critical that consumers let the PUC know how they're feeling.”

Another public comment meeting is planned for July, with a decision expected later in the year.

As for the public charging network, El Mallakh expects the PUC will make a decision by the end of the year or early next year.

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