We understand that most customers are primarily concerned with the affordability and reliability of the services we provide. Even as we continue to modernize our infrastructure and bring more renewable energy onto our system, we have managed to keep rates competitive. Our retail electricity rates have been and remain below the national average across our service territory.
Lower natural gas prices help to keep rates down. Within our company operations and processes, we also are focused on better managing costs by increasing productivity and becoming more efficient. Over the past four years, improvements to our customer care billing processes have helped us avoid operating cost increases, which allows us to dedicate more money to system improvements without dramatically raising rates for consumers. And to make energy bills more affordable to our at-risk customers, we contribute a significant amount of money each year to energy assistance agencies that serve our communities.
* Based on data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA)
Our utility subsidiaries operate under carefully regulated conditions, which are determined in part by state public utilities commissions. A utilities commission is a governing body that regulates the rates and services of utilities such as ours. In exchange for the exclusive right to provide electricity and natural gas services in certain regions, we agree to the following:
- Duty to serve: We will provide service to any residence or business within our service territory that requests it under reasonable terms and conditions. Utilities cannot pick and choose their customers.
- Cost of service pricing: Pricing for our services is regulated by the costs we incur to deliver them. We cannot arbitrarily raise prices to levels beyond our costs.
- Resource planning process: Every few years, we go through a process to determine the resources necessary to serve customers’ future energy needs. Resource plans must be reviewed and approved by regulatory commissions, and stakeholders are given the opportunity to provide input on the plans through a public process.
Together, this is known as the regulatory compact. As a participant in the compact, we are granted the ability to recover our costs of doing business and earn a reasonable rate of return. This rate of return is not guaranteed – we have only the opportunity to earn it, and in some years, we do not achieve the rate. To operate effectively in a closely regulated business like ours, it’s imperative that we stay in sync with the current demands of the public and policymakers.
We work with state and local agencies and advocates for low-income customers to provide energy assistance to those in need. Our Personal Accounts department provides services that promote the efficient use of energy while making energy bills more affordable to income-qualified families through payment plans and energy assistance programs.
In 2013, we helped to provide nearly $25 million to customer energy assistance programs throughout our service territory. Our support of energy assistance includes:
- Public policy and advocacy supporting efforts on the state and federal level to increase funding for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAP)
- Funding for state and local energy assistance agencies and energy weatherization programs
- Encouraging our customers to contribute to statewide fuel funds via their Xcel Energy bills
- In-kind marketing and public relations to support energy assistance organizations and advocates for low-income customers
|Program||Description||States Available||# Customers Participating in 2013|
|Gas Affordability Program||The program is designed to lower the percentage of income that low-income households must devote to meet current energy bills. It’s also designed to increase the number of customer payments and provide a mechanism for assisting customers in paying off arrearage balances. We partner with Energy CENTS Coalition (ECC) on both outreach and administration of the program.||MN||13,337|
|PowerON||Customers enrolled in PowerON get a discount on their monthly bills in return for their commitment to a payment plan. We partner with ECC to provide outreach and administration of this program. ECC obtains consumption information from us and combines it with customer income information to calculate each participant’s PowerON benefit.||MN||11,906|
|Low-income Discount Program||This program provides qualifying participants with a 50-percent reduction on the first 400 kilowatt-hours of electricity consumption each month. The typical monthly discount per participant is $11.50 during the winter months and $18.50 during the summer months.||MN||51,584|
|Low-income Energy Savings Programs||Free weatherization services, including weather stripping, insulation, replacement of inefficient furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators, freezers and window air conditioners, and installation of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Free in-home installation and efficiency upgrade service also is available to income-qualified customers through our Home Energy Squad program.||MN||485, plus 760 Home Energy Squad and 1,011 Multi-family Energy Savings|
|Electric and Gas Assistance Programs (EAP/GAP)||Through these programs, participants are eligible for benefits such as a discount on their monthly gas or electricity bill, partial arrears forgiveness and weatherization assistance through the Governor’s Energy Office program.||CO||14,501|
|Income-qualified Weatherization Programs||Free weatherization services, including weather stripping, insulation, replacement of inefficient furnaces and refrigerators, and installation of CFLs, in partnership with the Governor’s Energy Office and Energy Outreach Colorado.||CO||3,211 (single family residences)
32 (multifamily complexes)
12,136 (energy saving kits)
|Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Program (NEEP)||This program helps selected nonprofit organizations lower energy use and save costs. Participating organizations receive energy audits to identify energy saving measures and then measures are implemented.||CO||47 (includes multi-family complexes and other large buildings)|
|Home Energy Savings Program||This program provides various energy saving programs to low-income customers in New Mexico. Weatherization of existing homes, increasing duct efficiency for homes with central air, attic insulation and installation of 10 CFL light bulbs are the most requested services. Refrigerator replacement, installation of evaporative air conditioners and installation of radiant barriers are also offered||NM||80|
If we are unsuccessful in our efforts to reach out to customers regarding payment issues, we disconnect service only as a last resort. We will usually shut off service three to 10 days after the disconnection notice is sent if we are unable to resolve the issue or arrange a payment plan with the customer. In 2013, we disconnected service to a total of 106,071 customers. The majority of these customers are reconnected after they arrange payment plans or pay their bills in full. We typically send customers a reminder notice 33 days after their unpaid bill is due and a disconnection notice 64 days after the original due date. Heat-affected disconnects are not performed in our five northern states during the heating season. In all states, Customer Care department leadership can decide to suspend disconnections during extreme weather or other emergency situations.
Learn more about energy assistance.