Xcel Energy has apparently resolved a disagreement with the staff of the state Public Utilities Commission, following the staff's assertion that Xcel was factually and legally deficient in describing its proposed rate hike to customers.
In a joint filing Friday afternoon, Xcel and PUC staff announced a new agreement that calls for Xcel to send "an additional customer communication in the interest of ensuring customers are educated and informed."
A copy of the drafted additional communication shows Xcel noting explicitly that its proposed rate changes, which include yearly increases through 2021 of about 2 percent on customer bills, are in fact cumulative.
In a filing in November, the PUC staff wrote that, in its opinion, Xcel had misled customers by not making clear that the rate increases build on one another.
The result of this alleged misportrayal, PUC staffers wrote, was that many customers were left with the impression that Xcel was proposing to increase its revenues in Colorado by about $245 million in the coming years — a figure that's about $433 million shy of the reality.
The draft copy of what Xcel plans to send out includes a line that plainly states, "The cumultative revenue increase over the four years is approximately $678.2 million."
Not only did staff suggest, initially, that there were "factual inaccuracies," a "lack of clarity" and "inscrutability" in Xcel's notices, but it also lamented that, "Sadly, with all its means and capability, (Xcel) will not acknowledge the legitimacy of the concern staff has called to its attention."
The joint filing on Friday, though, seemed to show a different and more united tone.
"Ratemaking is an inherently technical endeavor, which is why the company agrees with staff that improvements can be made to the process in place related to customer communications," the filing reads.
"While (Xcel) maintains that its notice is technically and legally sound, the company acknowledges that some customers and news outlets have voiced confusion. ... As such the parties reached an agreement."
Sending out another communication to customers will cost Xcel $30,000, the company reported, but it has promised not to pass that cost along to ratepayers on bills.
As a result of the agreement reached Friday, PUC staff is withdrawing its previous recommendation that the commission require Xcel to "re-notice" customers.
The proposed increases that prompted the staff allegations and this subsequent joint filing are not a done deal. The three commissions must sign off on the proposals before they become effective on customer bills.