During week's Polar Vortex, 460,000 Xcel Energy customers in Minnesota were asked to turn their thermostats below 63 in order to sustain the utility's natural gas supply, and 150 in Princeton who lost their gas service altogether.
In some of these households, the extreme low temperatures led to frozen pipes, which in turn led to damaged pipes, as well as other issues such as furnaces being shut down by frost covering flue vents.
So what can you do if your house sustained damage after you turned down your thermostat? While major damage will likely involve a call to your insurance company, smaller repairs might not breach your deductible.
In this case, you can try and make a claim direct to Xcel Energy for compensation to cover the cost of the damage, through its claims process here.
To submit a claim you'll need to do the following:
– Complete a claim application form for Minnesota, which you can find here, including a detailed description of the incident that caused the damage and the extent of the damage sustained.
– Include all invoices or receipts for the repair of the damage.
– Either fax your completed form and documents to 612-330-5959, or mail it to: Xcel Energy, Attn: Claims Department, 414 Nicollet Mall – 8th Floor, Minneapolis MN 55401.
Xcel Energy says it tries to process claims as quickly as possible, but concedes it could take 90 days or more.
Will you actually get anything?
Well that's the question, there's every chance that Xcel Energy rejects your claim judging by the language on its site.
Here's what its claims site says:
"Generally, we are responsible for losses that occur due to our negligence. However, in many instances, we are NOT responsible for power outages, voltage fluctuations, food loss, or property damage that occur due to forces outside our control, such as floods or fires, and weather-related conditions including wind, rain, snow, lightning, or extreme heat."
We notice that it doesn't say "extreme cold" in that list, but we dare say that also falls under the "weather-related conditions" category.
Furthermore, its gas rate book for Minnesota notes that Xcel Energy "does not guarantee an uninterrupted or undisturbed supply of gas," and "shall not be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from the interruption or disturbance of service for any cause other than the gross negligence of the company."
This week's gas shortage was the result of huge demand in Minnesota that led to a drop in pressure, according to MPR, prompting the shutdown in Princeton – on the fringes of its coverage area – and a request for Minnesota residents to keep thermostats at 63 or below.
That would probably not qualify as "gross negligence" from Xcel, though it's worth noting that Minnesota's largest gas supplier, CenterPoint Energy, experienced no shortage of supply.
In fairness, Xcel did say it encouraged its customers in Princeton "and beyond" to get in touch with its claims department in its statement to Bring Me The News, so perhaps those in Princeton have more likelihood of getting some money back.
Another question we saw customers pose was whether the reduction in gas service will be followed by a similar reduction in the prices Xcel charges customers?
Yeah that's not going to happen.
Xcel told BMTN it "appreciates our customers who voluntarily conserved energy," before saying it is willing to work with customers who are having trouble with their bills via "payment arrangements and assistance."