Power company trying to correct rate increase information

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

The New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission has received more than 700 comments about a proposed rate hike for Xcel Energy, a case manager with Xcel said. Most of those comments stem from false information, an Xcel spokesman said.

Xcel’s Wes Reeves said the proposed increase, filed in May, is about 6.6 percent for residential customers — not 47 percent as a Portales banker claimed in a letter to his customers.

“We want to make sure people understand what we’re asking for is not out of the ordinary,” Reeves said.

The company’s base rate is increasing from $4.75 to $7, according to company documents.

In an early November letter to customers, Portales National Bank President David Stone urged citizens write to the PRC in opposition to what he believed was a 47.4 percent rate hike. Stone said in a correction letter Nov. 15 he misinterpreted the base rate increase for an overall increase.

Bryan Kauffman, a case specialist with Xcel, said as of Friday afternoon, the case had 720 comments, mostly in opposition to the rate change.

Reeves said the increase on the base rate is the first in 21 years.

An average power bill includes the base rate, and Reeves said Xcel charges customers a “pass through cost” for the fuel used to meet the customers’ energy demands.

Based on an average home usage of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, Excel has said a bill with the new service charge would rise about $6.12 a month.

The base rate helps fund the company’s investments in creating new power generation options and maintaining current ones.

“We’re looking at a lot of investment. We have to invest because our system has grown, our demand has grown,” Reeves said.

Reeves said he could understand how Stone or anybody else could make a mistake after looking at documents on the rate changes. He encouraged anybody to call the company for clarification on rates or anything else on the bill.

“It’s detailed and it’s more information than anybody wants to know, but it’s there if they need it,” Reeves said. “It’s a little confusing.”

Stone said he regrets giving customers misinformation, but doesn’t regret encouraging complaints about the increase. He contends the economy is in a recession, and every dollar a customer spends on a power bill is one less dollar that goes in his customers’ bank accounts or gets spent at a local business.

“If nobody contests it, they’ll just get whatever rate they want,” Stone said. “Quite frankly, Xcel is not my customer. The people who pay those bills, they are my customers.

“I was just hopeful maybe they’d make a smaller increase.”

Kauffman said a hearing on the case is schedule for Jan. 28, and he expects a decision by the end of April.

Read the comments
Comments left with New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission are available for public viewing. The Xcel case number is 07-00319-UT. Click on “PRC Case Dockets” section online at nmprc.state.nm.us