Grand Valley Power joins in effort to recoup charges

Tom Walch

Grand Valley Power has joined with three other electric cooperatives in efforts to recover at least $6.9 million Xcel Energy charged them in 2021.

“We have serious concerns that a substantial portion of Xcel’s fuel costs were entirely avoidable,” said Tom Walch, chief executive officer of Grand Valley Power based in Grand Junction. “We feel we have a duty to our members, the ones who ultimately pay Xcel’s charges, to challenge these costs. It is especially critical for us to protect our members from preventable runaway costs coming from future weather events.”

Grand Valley Power joined with CORE Electric Cooperative, Holy Cross Energy and Yampa Valley Electric in filing a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The cooperatives seek an order requiring Xcel Energy to refund a substantial portion — at least $6.9 million — of the $17.5 million the utility charged wholesale customers in February 2021.

Grand Valley Power serves more than 19,000 customers in Mesa County. The other cooperatives serve a total of about 550,000 Colorado residents, mostly in rural areas of the state.

Xcel Energy added a fuel cost adjustment to its wholesale power bill as a result of a winter storm in February 2021 that affected the central United States and triggered higher prices for the natural gas utilities burn to generate electricity. Prices were 100 times higher than normal

The complaint alleges Xcel Energy failed to obtain the natural gas its own planning determined would be necessary to meet electric generation requirements in February 2021. The failure left Xcel dependent on natural gas purchases on the market, and the utility passed along those fuel costs to customers.

The complaint also alleges Xcel failed to credit the cooperatives for a natural gas sale the utility made to its corporate affiliate during the same time period, and Xcel continues to impend an investigation into the February 2021 charges.

Xcel released a statement disputing the allegations. “Our gas purchasing practices before and during the storm were prudent, consistent with the law and our contractual obligations and ensured continued energy service for all customers — wholesale and retail — during the unprecedented storm.”