Yes, Xcel Energy is still proposing a historically high 21% rate increase and this would create greater hardship for those most struggling in this inflationary and post-pandemic period, inequitable rates for residential and low-income households, and invest in an outdated grid that perpetuates an expensive, fragile and highly centralized system.
Confused? Read on! But first, the main ways to weigh in, some talking points, and an event on the rate case...
The good news is that the link to record videos is now fixed! You can directly record and submit short 1-3 minute testimony on this site NOW through January 6th, 2023 at 4:30pm. You don't need to do any downloading/uploading/or emailing. Just use the QR code below, or click on the image to direct you there and follow the instructions to sign in (you do not need to disclose your real birthday, by the way). That's it to submit!
Link here: https://flipgrid.com/groups/12934603/topics/32372265/responses
The final deadline for comment is January 6th at 4:30PM:
- There is one more online hearing 12/9 at 1:30PM where you can given spoken comments Learn about the Hearings and How to Join
- You can submit a written comment using the instructions at https://mn.gov/puc/consumers/public-comments/. Make sure to reference PUC Docket No. 21-630 in your comment. Written comments are open until January 6th, 2023 at 4:30PM.
- To submit or view written comments:
- 1) Click here,
- 2) Then click on "Go to E-Dockets".
- 3) On the row that says "Docket Number" enter 21 under the year column and 630 under the number column. Then click Search.
- To submit or view written comments:
- You can email comments directly to [email protected] as long as your reference Docket # 21-630.
- You can also personalize a short written comment via Vote Solar's online action page.
Messaging Points for Testimony in Public Comments
Millions of Minnesotans like you are feeling the financial strain of inflation, health impacts from dirty energy pollution, and increasingly tangible impacts of the climate crisis. Monopoly energy utilities like Xcel and state regulators have a legal obligation to serve the public interest and empower communities to lead the way to a clean energy future.
Hundreds of comments in opposition have come in, and there are incredibly strong cases on record in opposition of much of what Xcel has proposed such as:
- increases the guaranteed profit for Xcel shareholders from 9.06% up to 10.20%.
- is about $677 million from ratepayers (a 21% overall increase) that largely invests in the grid in a way that locks in centralized power and decision-making rather than enabling greater local renewables
- increases total residential electric bills by an average of $140-$240 per year.
- increases the flat monthly fee by 15-18% - this is a fixed fee that cannot be reduced by using less energy.
- makes residential and lower income customers to bear a disproportionate share of the increase compared to commercial/industrial customers
Here are some facts and detailed talking points you are welcome to pull from if they resonate with you.
Okay so, what of the rate case, if anything, was rejected this week by the PUC?
Nothing, really. Xcel asked for a higher temporary rate for 2023 (or "interim rate") to use while the Commission is deciding the case (as they did for 2022). We jointly submitted testimony to reject Xcel's additional early cash grab that would hit ratepayers in 2023 - all before the Commission decides if the Rate Case itself is justified. Nearly all official parties explicitly opposed this, too, including the Department of Commerce and the Attorney General's Office came out in opposition to Xcel's $122M rate increase for 2023. In response, Xcel has offered a confusing compromise deal (which the MN PUC approved) that awards Xcel accounting adjustments stretching out our payments of certain costs over longer periods, but it does not allow the interim rate hike.
As a result, the Star Tribune has reported that Xcel has withdrawn in 2023 rate hike request. But we must clarify that the company is still gunning for the its original 21% rate hike over a 3-year period. The PUC only denied Xcel’s 2023 interim rate hike after granting them their 2022 interim rate hike request.
While this rejection of more "early cash" is great, this is truly just a delay in the total ask Xcel has put on the table.
Regional and National Eyes on the Rate Case As a Fight To Watch
We are seeing growing traction locally and nationwide for making sure energy justice is prioritized in energy decision-making, and the connection between energy affordability and access to local clean energy options is only getting clearer. Members of the Just Solar Coalition and their expert witnesses are quoted in both of these articles as the Minnesota fight against Xcel's sky-high rate increase and dismissal of local renewables is put in the spotlight.
- High electricity rates impede crucial but costly technology investments needed for distributed clean energy, Herman K. Trabish, Utility Dive| Nov 29, 2022
"Impeding [distributed renewables and efficiency] ignores “customer desires” and “cost-effectiveness trends” and creates incentives for “financially capable customers to defect from the grid,” [... its] integration can, though, also lead to a “partnership” between the bulk and distribution systems, leading to “estimated savings on the order of $500 billion” through 2050, Kristov testified in the Minnesota case, citing 2021 Vibrant Clean Energy modeling."
"What differentiates the Just Solar Coalition has been to bring together organizations that otherwise would not have the staff time or financial resources to participate. For example, no other organization represents religious concerns, a national solar group or a community solar garden developer focused on underrepresented communities. The coalition wants more diverse voices to be heard at the commission and has acted during the rate case to promote that cause.
With that formal seat, the coalition hopes to persuade state regulators to consider equity and justice as the regulators decide how much additional money they should allow Xcel to collect from its Minnesota customers."
Minnesota’s regulators could require the same, said University of Minnesota associate professor Gabe Chan, an energy expert at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Chan, who testified on behalf of the Just Solar Coalition, argues that federal and state statutes have long required that regulators use the rationale of “just and reasonable rates” when deciding rate cases.
The commission “definitely has a lot of flexibility to think about what just and reasonable means,” he said"
As one of the Just Solar Coalition intervenors in Xcel Energy's rate case, which is gaining attention for our coalition's success in making equity a key priority, is just one of many efforts starting to successfully confront injustice in utility planning. Community-based organizations next door in Wisconsin are raising very similar issues opposing a proposed rate increase by their investor-owned utility, We Energies. Nationwide, utilities are increasingly being called to task for poor energy reliability and inadequate grid maintenance in low income communities and communities of color, energy efficiency services that are inaccessible to households without wealth or property ownership, and failure to create approaches to enabling local clean energy that are broadly accessible. As the recent UtilityDive article explored in depth, these pushes towards energy justice gained substantial ground during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have only gainer prominence through the soaring energy prices and continued economic stresses we face today.