03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Big Mugging: Xcel's Top Guns Will Defend the Indefensible Thursday

This Thursday, December 3 at 9 am, Xcel Energy will bring out their top guns to argue in support of their proposed rate increase, the third in less than four years, that will increase our base rates in Colorado to pay for the new 750MW coal plant in Pueblo that is not yet running and will provide hundreds of megawatts of excess capacity when it does go on line.

Being a boost for base rates, the hike will have to be paid by all Xcel customers whether or not they use much energy or have subscribed to all Wind Source. Meanwhile Xcel's net income has gone up steadily, and the number of customers disconnected went up 80% between 2006 and 2008. Over 5000 Xcel customers are typically disconnected each month.

The company has asked for 11.25% return on equity and is now proposing to "settle" at 10.5%, according to Leslie Glustrom, citizen intervenor in the case.

PUC Hearing Room--Suite 250

1560 Broadway, Denver 80202

(Brown Building Above the Civic Center RTD Station

at the Top of the 16th Street Mall)

9 am Thursday, December 3

As if this rate increase were not enough to alarm rate payers, Xcel's coal burn will also increase by 25% next year with the start up of the new coal plant, and their stated price for coal will also go up by about 25%. That means the fuel costs can go up by over 50%, while the utility itself is fully shielded because they pass those costs straight through to rate payers in the electricity commodity adjustment (and, yes, the ECA gets passed through even to customers who have signed up for all Wind Source.)

So Coloradans are being up-charged in three steep ways: the price of coal, the volume of coal, and the base rates for the new coal plant. And none of this Coloradans want, if the vote results for Amendment 37 mean anything.

And so much of the cost hikes will go out of state. The base rate profits will go to Xcel shareholders for return on the construction of the new plant, and much of the higher coal costs will go to Wyoming -- all while Colorado's state services are being cut to the bone and we face the public health risks of running yet more coal capacity.

Bottom line: Xcel gets all the return and Colorado gets all the risk. Sound familiar? Kind of like "privatize the profits and socialize the risks"? We just bailed out the banks with extreme buyer's remorse, let's not bail out Xcel for its return-on-equity ambitions, either. Or someone might have to bail out Colorado.

Oh, and to show how Xcel treats Colorado as its prized cash cow, it is also seeking rate recovery on their costs just to ask for the rate increase. They want to charge us for the privilege of asking for all that extra dough!

So please commit some time on Thursday to be a witness to the proceeding at the PUC in Denver. No comments are required or accepted, so bring a book. As Woody Allen has said so memorably, "Ninety percent of life is just showing up."

You can also listen in by webcast from the PUC webpage

(Look under webcasts on the left--Probably Hearing Room A)