Xcel seeks nearly $180 million rate hike to cover coal-fired Comanche 3

Xcel Energy’s rate-case hearing before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission runs through the end of the week, with some wags saying the state’s largest utility intentionally asks for too much ($177.4 million) so the PUC can lop off $30 million or $40 million and rubberstamp the rate hike.

coal fired power

Xcel just got a $112 million increase in July, a settlement of its 2008 rate case in which the utility originally sought $159.3 million. Negotiations with PUC and staff and parties such at the Office of Consumer Counsel resulted in a $47 million reduction, but the average residential bill still went up $2.94 a month.

According to the Denver Post, the latest increase, scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of next year if it’s approved, would jack up rates another $4.92 a month, or about a 7.6 percent increase.

The biggest ticket item Xcel’s hoping to recoup costs on in its latest rate case? The utility wants another $110 million to offset its investment in the new Comanche 3 coal-fired power plant near Pueblo – scheduled to go online later this year.

Part of the last rate increase went toward Comanche 3 – the state-of-the-art third phase of the power plant, which is already being challenged in court by environmental groups for its mercury emissions plan. And rural electric co-ops such as the Intermountain Rural Electric Association (IREA), which is the state’s largest, and Holy Cross Energy have chipped in on Comanche 3 to the tune of $366 million and $100 million respectively.

But environmentalists and renewable energy advocates say the cost of coal will undoubtedly skyrocket in coming years because of looming shortages and the likelihood of climate-change legislation that would hit coal the hardest since it emits the most carbon dioxide. The Denver Post cites Leslie Glustrom, a private citizen challenging the latest rate case.

Glustrom is a former biochemist with Boulder-based Clean Energy Action who says supplies of coal in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin will likely start to run out in the next 20 years, making coal-fired power plants a poor long-term gamble.

Got a tip? Freelance story pitch? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.

Like this story? Steal it! Feel free to republish it in part or in full, just please give credit to The Colorado Independent and add a link to the original.

Got a tip? Story pitch? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.

About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>