Hearings begin for proposed Xcel rate hikeby Nancy Lebens, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Xcel Energy customers in the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota will be able to comment on Xcel's proposed $285 million rate hike during the month of March.
It's part of the months-long process the Public Utilities Commission uses to consider rate increases.
The utility applied for a 10.7 percent rate increase in November, and the PUC has granted a more than 9 percent hike in the interim. Xcel says it needs the rate hike to help pay for investments in upgrades.
The proposal triggered a series of public hearings, which will begin at 1 p.m. Monday at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Minneapolis. There will be six other hearings including in St. Cloud and Mankato.
Public comments may also be made online at the PUC's website.
The public comments are an important part of the process, said PUC assistant executive secretary Dan Wolf.
"Part of the charge of the commission is to protect the consumers and make sure that rates are reasonable and affordable," he said.
In a statement released Friday, Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said his department is recommending the proposed rate increase be cut by 67 percent for 2013.
The Commerce Department says Xcel overstated its costs and understated revenues, according to a state government analysis.
More than 1 million customers could receive a refund if the PUC grants a lower rate increase than the one already allowed, Wolf said.
"If the final rates are less than the interim rates that were allowed," he said, "Xcel does have to provide customers with a refund plus interest on the difference between what they were collecting on interim rates and what the final rates are approved to be."
The Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a final decision by September.
Nancy Lebens is an editor for MPR News.