On December 9, customers in more than 80 cities across the Texas Panhandle saw their Xcel Energy bills increase by 4 percent, according to a report by the ABC7 Amarillo news affiliate.
Xcel announced a settlement (Docket No. 45524) with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) that allows Texas revenues to increase by $35 million annually to recover close to $1 billion in capital improvement projects.
“In this case a residential customer would see about $3.97 per month increase,” said Xcel Spokesperson Wes Reeves told the local television station, adding, “That’s based on using 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh).”
But it’s not just homeowners who are feeling the pain. Schools, businesses, even cities, also will be hit by the rate hike.
“The real big players in this game are industrial users,” Canyon City Manager Randy Criswell told ABC Amarillo. “They use much more electricity than residential customers, commercial, or even cities.”
Criswell said the settlement decision didn’t come lightly. “It was a lengthy process and negotiations were as long as any I can remember,” Criswell told the ABC affiliate. “Here it is December and some of these cities won’t even ratify this action until January because they won’t meet again in December which almost makes this a year.”
He said city leaders have a responsibility to find a reasonable balance. “We want electricity when we flip that switch on and we don’t want brownouts or blackouts this summer when it’s 110 degrees outside,” Criswell said. “We also want reasonable prices and fair rates for our customers.”
Xcel’s Wes Reeves said there wasn’t another way around the increase. He said for the past six years, the company has been working on vamping up their regional power grid. “We have spent about a billion dollars in this period we’re talking about,” Reeves told the local station. “That’s a lot of money.”
With growth, he said it had to be done to ensure sufficiency.”For instance in the west side of the Panhandle we’ve seen a lot of dairies come in and what we had in the past was a system that couldn’t meet those needs,” Reeves said.