Denver7 | Weather


Polis directs PUC to investigate Xcel Energy following preemptive power outage

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Posted at 7:31 PM, Apr 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-09 23:09:17-04

DENVER — Governor Jared Polis on Tuesday directed the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to investigate Xcel Energy following the company's preemptive power shutoff.

Xcel on Saturday announced it would cut off power to 55,000 customers ahead of a major wind event. The company de-energized more than 600 miles of power lines. Some customers were without power for days as crews worked to assess and address any damage.

Xcel announced Tuesday evening that power had been restored to every customer.

Hollie Velasquez Horvath, regional vice president of Xcel Energy, told Denver7 the company used an intense scientific analysis before deciding to shut off power to certain areas.

“That involves both evaluating the National Weather Service information on what type of wind, how high the winds are going to be, in addition to the topography of the community, or the area, and also the fuel source. And the fuel source could be a combination between live and dead fuel source on the ground,” Velasquez Horvath said. “We came up with the conclusion that this type of wind event along with the fuel source combination was in the top 3% of an event that we have ever experienced in Colorado. And that was the decision to move forward with proactively shutting off power to those customers.”

Xcel Energy

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Xcel Energy responds to customer concerns following windstorm-related outages

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In a letter to Xcel Energy Colorado President Robert S. Kenney, Polis expressed his disappointment and frustration with the company.

"This unprecedented Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) significantly impacted, and in many cases surprised, tens of thousands of Coloradans. We know that increasing drought and climate change leads to drier conditions and the possibility of wildfire, so Xcel must recognize the shortcomings of this incident, learn from it, and be prepared to change your approach to these incidents to minimize loss of power," the governor wrote.

Xcel will soon submit its wildfire mitigation plan to the PUC. In his letter, Polis directed the PUC to investigate six requirements in that plan:

  • Guardrails for implementing a public safety power shutoff (PSPS)
  • Communication guidelines when it comes to informing customers of preemptive outages
  • Updated mapping that is "meaningful and actionable for customers during PSPS as well as all outages"
  • Ensuring vulnerable residents are adequately notified of extended outages
  • Coordination with adjacent utilities on messaging and response "so that customers receive consistent information across the impacted areas"
  • An investigation into the failures of this incident and interim solutions until a long-term strategy is in place

The governor also said he supports technology solutions that would enhance the energy grid, including the use of sensors and automation.

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Arvada neighborhood without power two days after Saturday windstorm

Kristian Lopez
4:54 PM, Apr 08, 2024

"Coloradans have always worked together to improve our shared wellbeing. I look forward to working with the Colorado state government, the Colorado General Assembly, and Colorado's utilities to drive continuous improvement in our response to severe weather and to protect this state we love so dearly," Polis said.

Velasquez Horvath said Xcel Energy has started holding meetings with customers to address concerns surrounding the decision. The PUC is also gathering feedback from utility customers regarding the event. Impacted Coloradans can follow this link to provide feedback.

Full letter below:

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