Business groups back proposed Xcel rate changes

Kristi Pollard
Kristi Pollard
Diane Schwenke
Diane Schwenke

An economic development and business group in Grand Junction support a plan officials from the groups say will offer more choices to utility customers in Colorado.

“Our area’s businesses are as diverse as our landscape, so a one-size-fits-all strategy no longer suits our energy conscious community,” said Kristi Pollard, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.

Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber also favors proposed changes in Xcel Energy electricity rates.

“If Xcel’s application is approved, we’ll have more opportunities to attract new businesses that want to balance renewable energy supplies with funding options that meet their bottom line,” Schwenke said. “This is an exciting step for our region and our state to adopt modern grid technology that meets the demands of the future.”

The Colorado Public Utilities Commission is considering a proposal from Xcel that changes how the costs of providing electric service are allocated among various customer classes. The changes don’t increase overall revenue for Xcel. The PUC hosted a hearing in Grand Junction City Hall on June 16 to gather public comments on the plan.

According to the PUC, proposals in the Xcel request include:

Introducing optional time-of-use rates for a subset of residential customers. This service would be available to a maximum of 10,000 customers in 2017, 14,000 customers in 2018 and 18,000 customers in 2019.

Establishing a grid charge to recover distribution system costs for residential and commercial customers. The company is proposing to assess graduated charges that increase with a customer’s average use over their past 12 billing periods.

Instituting an on-peak demand charge for customers on primary general and transmission general service. This charge would be assessed on a customer’s peak load during non-holiday weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m.

Instituting a critical peak pricing option for large commercial and industrial customers. This service would be offered on a pilot basis, and total participation would be capped at 30 megawatts.

Pollard and Schwenke said tiered rates and options would level the playing field for current businesses while offering more flexible and on-demand energy options for current and future businesses.

Under the plan, current private solar customers will be grandfathered and future private solar customers will receive a higher renewable energy credit payment to overcome increases incurred by the grid use charge.

Today, customers who don’t have private solar pay $1 a month to support customers who do — a collective $17 million cost shift that’s growing every year, Pollard and Schwenke said.