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MN Consumer Watchdog Steps up Opposition to Xcel Energy Rate Increase

Xcel Energy's plan for a sixth rate hike in Minnesota in 10 years is now open for public comment. (iStockphoto)
Xcel Energy's plan for a sixth rate hike in Minnesota in 10 years is now open for public comment. (iStockphoto)
June 20, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. – As Minnesota's largest energy supplier seeks another rate increase, one group says the move may be too expensive for some customers.

The Minnesota Public Utility Commission is now considering the sixth rate hike request from Xcel Energy in 10 years.

AARP Minnesota says for some Xcel customers, it would mean paying about an extra $130 a year.

State AARP Director Will Phillips says if the extra charges are approved, those customers will be paying more than what's necessary for their utility service.

"Well, it means different things to different people,” he states. “Certainly, for people on fixed incomes who have seen very little in the way of cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security it may mean more.

“Regardless of who you are, how much money you make, only paying what is fair and reasonable is what we need to ensure happens."

The public comment period is open for Minnesotans to weigh in on the issue. Xcel argues the rate increase is needed to pay for upgrades to the power grid and to make investments in cleaner energy production.

Phillips says he understands the need to cover those costs, but hopes the commission can find a more consumer-friendly solution than what Xcel is proposing.

He also takes issue with Xcel's plan for a 25 percent increase in its fixed customer charge.

"The bottom line is, that fixed charge really impacts low users, who tend to be older and lower-income at the end of the day,” he points out. “We think that the fixed charge is exactly where it needs to be right now, if not lower."

The state Commerce Department and Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office have called the rate hike excessive.

Xcel has said it's also planning to expand its low-income energy assistance programs.

Public comments can be made on the Minnesota Public Utility Commission, and also on AARP Minnesota's website.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN