Xcel plans to ask for multiyear rate hikes

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As Xcel Energy officials eagerly await approval from regulators on a company request for a rate hike for 1.2 million Minnesota customers, CEO Ben Fowke has more bad news for ratepayers, the Star Tribune reports.

For the first time, the company will ask for two or three years worth of increases at one time, the newspaper reports. A 2011 state law, which Xcel lobbied for, makes it possible for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to consider such a multiyear rate hike request, the newspaper notes.

The utility company is looking for more income certainty as it aims to make costly investments in infrastructure over several years, including investments to its nuclear power plants, the Star Tribune reports. Costs of recently completed improvements to Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant have jumped to $640 million, double what the utility had originally budgeted in 2008.

A state administrative law judge last month found that Xcel Energy's recent request for a 10.7 percent electric rate hike was too high.

The Star Tribune reported that Judge Jeanne Cochran recommended that the Minnesota electric utility be allowed to increase rates by a more modest 4.7 percent. The utilities commission is expected to arrive at a decision later this year.

In other news this week, a majority of those in the crowd at a Thursday public hearing on whether Minneapolis should form its own utility seemed to oppose the idea, MPR reported. More than 50 members of the public, business leaders and activists spoke – mostly against the idea – at the hearing that went more than three hours, the Pioneer Press reported. Attendees had pointed questions about whether the city could afford such a venture, and whether the city had the expertise to pull off such a complex enterprise.

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