New Polling Suggests Xcel Ratepayers Are Unwilling to Foot the Bill for Executives and Shareholders
85% of Xcel Customers Think the Company Should Pay for the Costs Incurred from Colorado Energy Plan’s Details
DENVER, July 30, 2018 – Eighty-five percent of Colorado’s Xcel Energy customers do not want to pay the $2.5 billion cost for the company’s Colorado Energy Plan (CEP), according to a poll released by the Coalition of Ratepayers.
Xcel Energy, headquartered in Minneapolis, is a regulated, for-profit monopoly utility serving roughly 1.4 million electricity customers throughout Colorado. The utility currently is seeking regulatory approval of the CEP, a massive fuel switching scheme away from base load hydrocarbons in favor of various sources, primarily intermittent industrial wind.
The poll, conducted by Magellan Strategies, found that 85 percent of Xcel’s customers believe Xcel shareholders should incur more of the cost – and the associated financial risk – of the proposed CEP. Only three percent of respondents were content with Xcel customers assuming the entirety of the plan’s financial burden (the remaining 12 percent of respondents were unsure).
The poll comes just ahead of an August 1st hearing at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to consider whether Xcel will be allowed to shutter prematurely two of the state’s most efficient coal-fired units, Comanche I and II located in Pueblo.
Because of a 2004 agreement, Xcel committed customers to pay nearly $200 million to upgrade the Comanche units, making them some of the most environmentally superior in the state in order to keep them operational until 2035. As part of the CEP, Xcel now wants to close the units a decade early.
The Coalition of Ratepayers, which commissioned the poll, is also an intervenor in the CEP and Comanche retirement proceedings in front of the PUC and has presented testimony challenging Xcel’s claim that its plan will save ratepayers money.
“We’ve been told repeatedly that the more wind and solar Xcel builds, the more money we will save and yet, none of those savings have materialized. When customers hear the cost of this current plan, they don’t want to pay for it. Based on what has happened with electricity bills who can blame them? Some of our members have seen bills go up 100 percent,” said Amy Oliver Cooke of the Coalition of Ratepayers.
“They may like wind and solar, but this poll shows customers think it’s time Xcel’s well-compensated executives and stockholders should have some skin in the game. If the CEP is such a great idea, then the company should risk stockholders’ money not Colorado ratepayers who have no voice and no choice. It’s time Xcel executives and stockholders paid their own bills,” Cooke added.
Upon learning that Xcel’s executive compensation is tied to stock performance rather than the performance of its power stations, 74 percent of respondents to Magellan Strategies’ polling concluded that the utility’s corporate leadership is more beholden to company stockholders than customers, with only seven percent believing that the company looks out for its ratepayers first.
“This poll shows Xcel customers don’t want to be guinea pigs in Xcel’s profit enrichment scheme. The only sure thing in Xcel’s $2.5 billion proposal to build out new facilities is that Xcel Energy will make tens of millions of dollars – and likely over $100 million – in additional profits. If Xcel believes this $2.5 billion build-out of new facilities will someday pay for itself, then let Xcel executives and Xcel shareholders – not captive ratepayers – foot the $2.5 billion bill, “said James Taylor, Senior Fellow for Environment and Energy Policy at the Heartland Institute.
Xcel customers will know their fate by mid-September when the Commission is expected to release its decision. Should the Commission rule in Xcel’s favor, the company’s Wall Street shareholders will reap significant profits, while Colorado ratepayers will pay the price.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is aware of all of this, despite allies of Xcel having tried – and failed – to suppress evidence that confirms the economic boondoggle that this proposal promises. The Coalition of Ratepayers is optimistic that following the hearings on August 1, the Commission will side with the people of Colorado, not a for-profit monopoly beholden to Wall Street banks rather than its customers.
The Coalition of Ratepayers is a Colorado nonprofit focused on issues impacting small business and residential ratepayers that otherwise have no voice. To learn more, please visit www.i2i.org/coalition-of-ratepayers.
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