Saturday, November 13, 2010

Post # 49 - Xcel's SmartGridCity Wins Another Round

In another step forward for Xcel Energy's SmartGridCity project in Boulder Colorado, an administrative law judge for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission has ruled that Xcel may recoup nearly $45 million in costs from retail ratepayers -- an amount three time's higher than the company's original estimate. Next stop -- an appeal to the full PUC.

Xcel first announced that the company had chosen Boulder as the location to build its experimental smart grid in 2008. At the time, company officials estimated that the cost to the utility would be $15.3 million. However, the costs incurred by Xcel ballooned over time, causing the company to ask the PUC for permission to increase its rates to pay for the project. Last December, the PUC granted conditionally Xcel's request, but told the company that it must retroactively file for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which gives the PUC more authority to regulate the project. The PUC ruled that if the certificate was not granted, Xcel would be forced to refund customers any money collected to pay for the smart grid.

Xcel filed its application last March, leading to contentious litigation before the PUC as to whether ratepayer benefits justified ratepayers bearing the costs. Last August, Xcel, the Governor's Energy Office and staffers at Public Utilities Commission proposed an agreement, recommending that the certificate be granted and that Xcel's cost recovery for SmartGridCity be capped at $44.5 million. It was this settlement agreement that the PUC judge has approved.

But the game is not over -- opponents can appeal the judge's decision to the full PUC. In particular, Colorado's Office of Consumer Counsel -- a state agency charged with representing the interests of residential, small business and agricultural consumers before the PUC -- has strongly opposed the settlement and is expected to appeal.

No comments:

Post a Comment