DENVER – Xcel Energy customers could see a further increase in their monthly bills as the utility seeks to build a high-speed public charging network for electric vehicles to meet the state’s clean energy goals by the end of the decade.
In its clean energy transition plan, Colorado adopted a goal of having 940,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030. To achieve this goal, the state passed a law in 2019 that requires utilities like Xcel to develop transport electrification plans to help with the transition.
In its latest transportation electrification proposal, Xcel is asking the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for permission to charge customers for building the charging network.
“We’re really focusing on areas that haven’t seen a lot of infrastructure construction,” said Nadia El Mallakh, vice president of Clean Transportation for Xcel Energy. “We know a great [customer] obstacle to electric driving is that they say we need more high-speed public charging.
El Mallakh said the proposed monthly bill increase would add 460 public charging stations in Xcel’s service area.
“That’s about 10% of what the state of Colorado will need in our service area by 2030,” El Mallakh said.
The public charging network, which would cost around $140 million, is part of a more comprehensive plan proposed by Xcel.
Xcel officials said their proposal “includes expanded solutions and programs to support public charging and charging in homes, businesses, multi-family buildings and other community locations.”
El Mallakh stressed that the costs of the public charging component of the plan would not be passed on to residential customers. Instead, those costs would go to business customers, she said.
Residential customers, however, would still see their bills go up to pay for other components of the plan.
The average residential customer’s electricity bill would increase by 0.77 cents per month, according to a press release from Xcel.
“It’s a really tough time right now, and we know the financial challenges with inflation and everything,” El Mallakh said. “We were very aware of that. And what I would say is that we kept that in mind. And we really designed this plan to pay for itself over time.
Xcel customers like Ian Peek don’t want to see an increase in their bills and have said it’s not fair to charge all customers for something they won’t use.
“Not everyone uses electric vehicles, but they want to pass that cost on to all of their consumers, so that doesn’t really make sense to me,” Peek said. “It feels like they’re just asking for more money when they’re already making a profit.”
Xcel wants to raise tariffs to pay for electric vehicle charging network
Xcel’s request comes at a time when the PUC is considering a request from Xcel to increase its base rates, which would add $7.33 to the customer’s average monthly bill.
Xcel officials said these increases are needed as the utility transitions to renewables.
In a public filing, Xcel officials said the request was “driven by investments in distribution and transmission systems, and in information technology, which are in turn driven by the necessary replacement of aging equipment, the need to support system security and reliability, population growth, new service demands and capacity upgrades due to increasing demand.”
AARP Colorado’s Bill Levis said those living on fixed incomes would be hardest hit.
“Our concern at AARP Colorado is that many of our members are on fixed incomes, and up to 30% of their net income currently goes to utilities,” Levis said.
That’s why he’s urging customers to speak up at a public meeting the Public Utilities Commission is holding on Wednesday about the base rate increase.
“It would just be in addition to another increase on top of the other increases already approved by the PUC,” Levis said. “I think it’s very important that consumers let PUC know how they feel.”
Another public consultation meeting is scheduled for July, with a decision expected later in the year.
As for the public charging network, El Mallakh expects the PUC to make a decision by the end of the year or early next year.
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